A Government minister was in Ely yesterday (Monday) to look at what Mayor James Palmer describes as the “innovative” scheme by East Cambs Council to buy and refurbish empty homes formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Simon Clarke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, .began his tour by looking at the homes next to the Princess of Wales hospital that have been bought by the council's business arm, East Cambs Trading Company.

Mr Clarke said: "It's clear that local people are able to benefit from the power and funding we've devolved to the mayor and combined authority."

The homes will be modernised thanks to a loan of £24.4million provided by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

There is an additional loan of £1.5m from the district council.

The existing homes will be renovated and the number increased to 92.

Of those, 15 will be provided as shared ownership affordable homes for people who live or work locally through a community land trust.

Mayor Palmer said: "The minister was shown how the development was made possible through a loan by the combined authority, which will be fully repayable, meaning the additional homes will be delivered at zero cost to the taxpayer."

"It is fantastic to once again welcome a minister to shine a light on the work we are doing, where I think we have some of the most exciting projects ongoing anywhere in the world for an area of our size.," said Mayor Palmer.

""The Government recognises that the dynamic and innovative Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy is critical to future UK growth. That's why it is important to demonstrate what we are doing to urgently tackle the transport infrastructure and housing issues which threaten to hold back our future prosperity."

Mr Clarke was taken to Cambridge to be briefed on the combined authority's plan to dual the A10, the re-development of the Marshall's site, Cam Metro and the biomedical campus.

Mayor Palmer said: "Government support for our ambitions will be essential.

"We have recently submitted bids to Government to dual the A10 between Ely and Cambridge and to fully dual the A47 between Peterborough and east of Wisbech. "Welcoming ministers like Simon Clarke to the area only enhances central Government understanding of what we are achieving here and that will be important when investment decisions are made in Whitehall."