Cambs market towns can bid for share of £13 million as part of Combined Authority’s investment strategy
- Credit: Archant
Market towns across Cambridgeshire can now bid for a share of £13million as part of the Combined Authority’s investment strategy.
The mayor James Palmer said the plan – which was brought forward to assist with the economic impact of the pandemic – would help the county’s “left-behind towns”.
Mr Palmer said the final sum available has been “doubled” since the plan was originally envisioned.
He described it as an “unprecedented investment in the market towns, at exactly the right time”.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s strategy saw 11 towns give £50,000 each to develop a “masterplan” which they can use to make the case for a share of the funds.
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The mayor said he hopes the masterplans will outline the case for investment in each area, which can then be used as an “investment prospectus” to bid for further funding – including from central government and the private sector – by providing proof of a wider strategy and return on investment.
The fund will make £10million available from the Combined Authority for 10 towns to bid for, with up to £1million available for each.
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Masterplans for March, Wisbech, Chatteris, Whittlesey, St Neots, St Ives, Huntingdon and Ramsey have been completed and approved, and masterplans for Ely, Soham and Littleport are due to go to the board for approval in July.
St Neots, which was the pilot town for the scheme, will also receive £3.1million in “recycled” funds after plans for a foot and cycle bridge over the Great Ouse river was scrapped. St Neots can now make a new proposal to invest the funds in the area.
The Combined Authority said the first funding applications are likely to go to its board for approval from July 2020 onwards, and that funds awarded must be spent at the latest by March 2022.
Addressing the authority’s board on Wednesday (June 3), the mayor said: “More people live in our market towns than live in either Cambridge or Peterborough.
“We get told a lot about the left behind towns of the north, but we know there are also left-behind towns in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as well.
“The significant investment we have put into St Neots is because it has been very much left behind over the years.”
And he said the fund would play a role in recovering from the economic fallout of the pandemic. He said: “We are acting now in the very short-term so there is money this summer to invest into our towns.”
Mr Palmer described it as “a bottom up scheme rather than top down”. The fund was widely welcomed by the Combined Authority board.
The leader of the county council, Steve Count, congratulated the mayor and described it as “excellent work”.
The leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, councillor Bridget Smith, said the pandemic and lockdown has “shone a bright light on the value of people being able to shop locally, but also in the value of the local micro-economies, much of which is centred on market towns”.
The leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, councillor Anna Bailey said: “Investment at this level makes a massive difference.”
Both Cllr Count and Cllr Bailey also suggested additional funds may need to be allocated to contribute to the master plans in the future.
Ahead of the decision the mayor said: “These masterplans are devolution in action. They spell out the needs of the local area, from new job opportunities, and education and skills provision, through to community facilities and local attractions.
“Under devolution, power and budgets passed from Westminster to the Combined Authority, and now these masterplans draw that same power and budget into the very roots of our region.
“People in the market towns know what they need and that gives me authority as mayor to make an informed case to government for more investment in what they want.”
The Combined Authority report on the strategy says: “With the aim of bringing jobs, infrastructure and growth, the masterplans would enable each town to become and remain ‘vibrant and thriving places’ whilst helping to boost the local and regional economy.”
The authority said they would provide “targeted growth and regeneration and perhaps attract more funding, from government and the private sector”.