Town lands £470,000 jobs and training 'bonus'

Viva Arts, having successfully completed renovation of Spencer Mill, Soham, has a phase two in sight.

Viva Arts, having successfully completed renovation of Spencer Mill, Soham, has a phase two in sight. - Credit: Viva

Soham landed a £470,000 New Year ‘bonus’ to boost jobs and training.  

The Combined Authority awarded £325,000 to Viva Arts to support phase two of developing Spencer Mill.  

And £145,000 will go to the expand Soham’s Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub. 

The Combined Authority heard that that Spencer Mill – now up and running by Viva Arts – wants to create a community hub and business centre.  

It will be built next to the rail station and Viva believe to offer a centre to help training and support skills.  

Cllr Josh Schumann told board members that Viva’s motto had always been to offer “skills for life not just for theatre”. 

He said that after becoming successful in creating East Cambridgeshire’s first purpose-built theatre, Viva had ambitions for growth.  

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He said Viva now had its own space the next phase was to embrace the wider community through provision of training and skills.  

Cllr Schumann said the location of the proposed new hub next to the recently opened rail station was ideal. 

"Very close to Spencer Mill is a small cluster of industrial units, which have become in state of disrepair and become unviable,” he said.  

Viva would develop that area, he said, and it would be helped enormously by the improved connectivity the station offered. 

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson told him: “You sound very passionate about it.” 

The Agri tech centre is already home to five start-ups and supports another seven businesses. 

The investment will fund a log cabin style building with kitchen, toilets, and conferencing, meeting, exhibit equipment along with audio visual and seating.  

“This will enable businesses to better showcase innovations to wider audiences and NIAB the ability to further promote the hub to prospective new tenants and potential hub members,” the board was told.  

The two Soham proposals came in the seventh funding call for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Market Towns Programme.  

Combined Authority funding of £13.1m has been allocated across the market towns, with district councils able to bid for capital funds for each town. 

East Cambridgeshire District Council prepared the funding bids for Soham.  

Other areas have been slower off the mark blaming delays caused by the pandemic. 

Much of the approved spend will not be achieved in the financial year 2021/22 and the board agreed to extend spending into future years.