It turns out Cambridgeshire was ahead of the Chancellor when it comes to funding high street regeneration of our market towns
- Credit: PA
Seven months after Mayor James Palmer committed almost half a million pounds to rejuvenating nine town centres across Cambridgeshire, Chancellor Phillip Hammond today turned regeneration of our high streets into a major plank of his Budget strategy.
He announced a high street regeneration fund of £675 million and a cut to business rates by a third for small businesses for the next two years.
The news was welcomed by Mayor Palmer whose previous announcements had begun the work to revitalise nine market towns including March, Ely, Chatteris and Soham.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board said the £450,000 already agreed would fund master plans for each of the nine towns.
Work on Chatteris, March, Littleport, St Ives and Whittlesey is being undertaken this year, and plans for Ramsey, Ely, Soham and Huntingdon will begin in 2019.
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Mayor Palmer said the combined authority had been instrumental in lobbying central government to prioritise investment into our town centre economies.
He said the authority has already adopted a strong policy of supporting the development of prosperous and vibrant market towns through the master plan initiatives that had begun with a £4.1 million investment for St Neots.
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Mayor Palmer said: “I’m delighted with the support that the Government have provided in today’s budget statement to our high streets and town centres.
“The support the Government will be providing both in terms of rates relief and the £675 million fund to rejuvenate high streets and their transport links could be a game changer for many of our town centres and retailers.
“What’s so pleasing is how the support that the Government is providing dovetails so much with the combined authority’s agenda to support our town centres through our market town master plan strategy that is already leading to significant investment into our town centres.”
He said: “Only a couple of months ago the deputy mayor and portfolio holder for economic growth, Charles Roberts, made a submission to the ‘high streets and town centres in 2030’ public inquiry led by the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee. That made clear the importance we place on supporting our town centres and high streets.”
“It’s pleasing that the Government share our view and as mayor I will look to ensure that Cambridgeshire town centres and high streets benefit from this strong support.”
The investment for St Neots has seen plans progressed for a cycling and pedestrian footbridge to connect the town, an enhanced programme of events, investment in the improvement of street furniture and a traffic study into how best to relieve congestion and improve high street access for pedestrians.
Next steps for the area include a fund to develop a business improvement district which supports local businesses to fund local regeneration projects
A business improvement district was one of the early thoughts of the Wisbech 2020 Vision who first proposed six years ago such a scheme for the town. The 2020 vision envisaged a business improvement district, complete with town centre manager and someone to provide ‘leadership for the vision of the town” and to co-ordinate marketing and tourism.