This page includes a range of frequently asked questions about the investment in St Neots.
Who are the project funders?
The investment in St Neots Town Council will be funded as follows:
£5.1 million from Huntingdonshire District Council
£3.8 million from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Future High Streets Fund
£3.1 million from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority
£3.5 million from National Highways.
How were the projects chosen?
In March 2019 the District Council submitted an Expression of Interest to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities for funding from the Future High Streets Fund. After being successful at the expression of interest stage we were awarded a small grant to develop a full business case.
During the development of the business case, a large number of projects were considered, evaluated and refined down to a smaller number of proposals that met certain criteria, which were that the projects:
support the strategic direction of the town as set out in previous work such as the St Neots Masterplan for Growth - and the St Neots Neighbourhood Plan
meet the funding priorities and criteria of the Future High Streets Fund
achieve value for money - cost relative to benefits and
can be delivered within the project timeframe with acceptable levels of risk.
Proposals were refined through engagement with stakeholders, urban design studies and cost estimates. Alongside this, an options appraisal was undertaken that considered both strategic fit and deliverability.
What is the timeframe for St Neots investment projects?
The government requires that the Future High Streets Fund money be spent by March 2024, however, work paid for by the other funders could continue after this period.
We are currently in a period where we need to design, investigate, plan, procure and phasing of projects and this will take time to ensure the right solutions and value for money.
It is likely that delivery of one or two of projects will start in Autumn 2023.
How can I find out what is happening?
We will be sharing regular updates with stakeholders, on our website, via social media and to residents who have signed up to receive our newsletter.
Old Falcon FAQs
What and where is the Old Falcon?
The Old Falcon is an old public house / inn / hotel and is in the market square in St Neots.
Is the Old Falcon building listed?
Yes, the Old Falcon Inn is Grade II listed since 1971 by Historic England and is also within the St Neots Conservation area.
Who owns the Old Falcon?
The Old Falcon is owned privately, it is not owned by the District Council.
What funding is available for the Old Falcon?
The District Council were successfully granted £1.4m primarily from the Future High Street Fund to be used specifically for the Old Falcon.
What will the money be used for?
To understand the full scale of the works that will be needed to bring the property back into a viable economic use and to support the early phases of regeneration of the Old Falcon.
What is the current status of the project?
We are at the early feasibility stage, which means we are carrying out surveys to the building and checking its structural stability. The council will then commission an options report to outline the best use for the funding based on its condition and how a sustainable future use of the building can be supported.
Will the project require planning permission?
Yes, any proposals will require a full planning application as well as Listed Building consent. The building is in a conservation area and there are also several stakeholders and statutory consultees including Environment Agency that would need to be informed.
What are the anticipated benefits of restoring the Old Falcon?
The Old Falcon is an important part of St Neots past and occupies a key location in the town that many people are rightly concerned about. It is a listed building and has fallen into disrepair over the last 20 years.
Therefore, any investment into the fabric of the building would need to be carefully managed and any new elements would need to be approved by planners and would require listed building consent.
It forms part of a wider commitment to enhance the town centre.
How can we ensure the funding/spending is kept on track?
The Old Falcon is in private ownership and is not owned by the District Council.
Therefore, any future plans will need to be carefully considered as to ensure that any public funds being spent on the building will achieve as desired outcome for the residents, businesses and visitors of St Neots.
Once the project is agreed, a programme of work will be developed which will incorporate key milestones for spend and project achievements.
What are the risks of not restoring the Old Falcon?
The Old Falcon's current condition is in a dilapidated state, it is in private ownership and is not owned by the District Council. However, if the building is left with no repair works carried out the Old Falcon will eventually fall further into disrepair.
The council is looking at all options and statutory power to avoid any further degradation to a Grade II listed building.
Priory Centre and Quarter FAQs
What are the proposals for the Priory Centre?
The council is at the early stage of scoping a potential refurbishment of the Centre.
Who owns the Priory Centre?
The Priory Centre is owned by St Neots Town Council, it is not owned by the District Council.
What is proposed for the Centre?
The council are currently looking at very high-level options for the centre. These include making best use of its location on the riverside.
Is there any funding for the Priory Centre?
Yes, the District Council received FHSF for the Centre and this is being supported with Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.
What are the proposals for the Quarter?
The council, as part of its place planning role, is looking into Master Plans across market towns. Exploration of proposals for the Priory Quarter are in the early feasibility stage.
Is there any funding to deliver works in the Quarter?
Yes, for feasibility only. There is no funding to support any works in the Quarter past feasibility.
What is proposed for the Centre?
The council is currently looking at very high-level options for the Centre. These include making best use of its location on the riverside.
'What are the anticipated benefits of the transport projects?
The transport projects form part of a wider enhancement of the town centre as well as providing physical regeneration that will lift commercial, retail, and civic pride in the town centre. They will also look to address traffic pollution, encourage more active travel and ease traffic congestion.
How do we know that this is value for money?
The District Council is working closely with Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) who have specialist highways knowledge. This relationship between the two councils allows us to gain full and latest current costings across a number of projects in real time to provide direct comparisons.
Initial concept was tested by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) as part of the FHSF Appraisal, as carried out by Mott MacDonald (Consultants) in the Business Case submission. DLUHC indicators are used to ensure that we are delivering to targets.
How are we managing the cost and delivery risk?
We are monitoring costs in real time and updating the commercial case to reflect costs and funding sources/criteria. Project management is being carried out at CCC and the District Council. This is supported by project management governance procedures at both council levels.
What is the Budget for the Transport projects?
The current budget for this project is £8.5million. In February 2022 estimates the initial concepts were placed at £8.5m. However, in June 2022 the estimated cost was judged to be around £9.5m (with inflation risk and optimism bias built in), due to inflation, increased material costs and outside factors such as those impacted by the war in Ukraine.
Consideration is now being given to reviewing the estimates and seeking further uplift in budget.
Would there be any benefits in delaying projects until economic / funding challenges settle and we can have more balanced costs?
Delays are more likely to result in cumulative cost increases due to inflation, delay costs (estimated at £80k per month - CCC, July 2022).
Additionally, funders expect projects to be delivered in 2024.
What is the point of all this consultation if you have already decided?
In May 2022, the District Council carried out a consultation session in St Neots with local stakeholders and invited feedback from residents online which looked at the proposed schemes in St Neots.
The feedback by residents and businesses was captured and the council's proposals were amended in accordance with the public feedback.
One of the requests included providing regular updates on the projects on the council's website.
What are you going to do?
The District Council are developing up our proposals based on public and member engagement, and we will regularly feedback on our progress.
When will it all start / finish?
The target for the next phase of the transport projects in St Neots include detailed design to start in late 2022, procurement of contractors early 2023 and commencement of works in spring 2023. The target date for completion is summer 2024.
Will this mean that nothing else happens in St Neots?
There is a wider masterplan for St Neots which is currently being finalised. The masterplans will offer wider opportunity for future public and private investment into St Neots.
The council is currently exploring other projects in the market town outside of the Future High Streets Fund projects, including the enhancement of pathways and footways in Riverside Park, as part of wider investment into the council's open spaces.
Future High Streets Funding Background FAQs
Why was St Neots selected for application to the Future High Street Fund?
The government invited bids for Future High Street Funding from unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs and, where there is a two-tier system, from district councils, in England. The funding guidance stipulated that the government would only accept bids covering town centre areas facing significant challenges.
Huntingdonshire District Council could have submitted an application for any of its market towns, but selected St Neots as it was felt that it was the town which needed the investment and would benefit most from the fund.
Other factors taken into consideration included St Neots' growing population, the town's connectivity and challenges facing the town centre including the declining footfall and the challenge of competing with online shopping.
How is Huntingdonshire District Council involved in the Future High Street Fund?
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' Future High Street Fund Call for Projects invited "bids from unitary authorities, metropolitan districts, London boroughs and, where there is a two-tier system, from district councils, in England".
Having been successful in its application for funding, Huntingdonshire District Council will now act as the accountable body - this means that we are responsible for the legal and financial management of the grant.
We are also responsible for ensuring the projects are delivered to time and budget, achieve value for money and meet the requirements of the Future High Street Fund grant.
Huntingdonshire District Council, as the accountable body, holds the responsibility, but to develop and deliver the projects we will collaborate with a range of stakeholders and partners, including St Neots Town Council, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and statutory organisations such as the Environment Agency and Historic England.
What is the Future High Street Fund?
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' Future High Streets Fund is a £675 million fund to help local areas respond to and adapt to the challenges and changes facing their High Streets.
The fund serves two purposes, "it will support local areas to prepare long-term strategies for their high streets and town centres, including funding a new High Streets Taskforce to provide expertise and hands-on support to local areas.
It will also then co-fund with local areas projects including:
investment in physical infrastructure, including improving public and other transport access, improving flow and circulation within a town/city centre, congestion-relieving infrastructure, other investment in physical infrastructure needed to support new housing and workspace development and existing local communities, and the regeneration of heritage high streets; and
investment in land assembly, including to support the densification of residential and workspace around high streets in place of under-used retail units."
You can find out more on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities' website and the full prospectus for the fund is also available online.
Why should I take part in community engagement? Haven’t the decisions already been made?
Engaging with the community and stakeholders is an important part of the investment in St Neots and we will be talking to people throughout the length of the project.
Whilst decisions have been made about the projects that funding will be used for, we still need to hear from local people about their aspirations for the town and what outcomes they would like to see each of the projects deliver.
Community engagement will help shape and inform decisions around the projects alongside best practice, learning from other markets towns and the strategy for the future of St Neots.