This page includes a range of questions we have been asked about the St Neots FHSF.
Do you have a question? Send it to us at FHSF@huntingdonshire.gov.uk.
Why was St. Neots selected for 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.
The funding is an exciting opportunity for St Neots and has the potential to regenerate the High Street for the benefit of local people, visitors and businesses.
How is Huntingdonshire District Council involved in the Future High Street Fund?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governments 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.
Who are the project funders?
The £12.8 million investment in St Neots Town Council will be funded as follows:
£5.9 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.
What is the timeframe for the Future High Street Fund projects?
The government requires that the Future High Street Fund money is spent by March 2024, however, work paid for by the other funders could continue after this time period. We are currently in a period where we need to design, investigate, plan and procure the projects this will take time to ensure the right solutions and value for money.
It is likely that work on the projects will start in Autumn 2023.
How were the projects chosen?
In March 2019 the District Council submitted an Expression of Interest to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 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. This process made sure we took forward projects that:
support the strategic direction of the town as set out in previous work such as the St Neots Masterplan for Growth
meet the funding priorities and criteria of the Future High Street 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, we used a best practice approach to options appraisals which took into account both strategic fit and deliverability.
What is the Future High Street Fund?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 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 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 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 Future High Street Fund process 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.