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2 October 2012, 14:36
A pledge has been signed to try and create new jobs and help businesses over the next five years in St Neots.
The agreement, between local councils, came on the day Cambridgeshire County Council held its cabinet meeting in St Neots.
The idea is to help St Neots, which is Cambridgeshire's biggest town, better compete with nearby bigger shopping centres such as Cambridge and Bedford.
Leaders of Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council have agreed to work closely together on plans to improve St Neots, with a particular focus on making better use of the town's riverside.
Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Nick Clarke[pictured - at St Neots riverside with Huntingdonshire District Council Leader Jason Ablewhite], said: "I want this day to be a catalyst.
We have all been working hard for many years on behalf of St Neots, but the only way that we are going to do the best for this town is through effective collaboration.
That means the county council, the district council and the town council working together.
Clearly we have already been doing that, but I do want today to be an important milestone in cementing that relationship.
Both the County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council want to signal that intent strongly, so we have jointly authored a statement on where we want to go with St Neots Town Centre, and why this issue is so important to us.
A joint statement, signed by both council leaders, reads: "St Neots, as we know, is expanding and will continue to do so over the next 10 to 15 years.
We recognise that the expansion of homes and jobs needs to be facilitated in a way which enhances the town as a vibrant and attractive place in which to live work and relax.
Both the County and District Councils are committed to working together and with other authorities, particularly the Town Council, to make the most of this opportunity.
Set in the valley of the River Great Ouse, with a distinctive green corridor, St Neots has a rich history and heritage, with a culture of varied events.
The town is already the largest market town in Cambridgeshire and with the increased population there is the clear potential for the town to become more self sufficient and this is especially true of the town centre, but this is not a given and must be worked on with vigour.
We understand that there will always be 'higher order centres', such as Cambridge and Bedford, which will offer a wide range of facilities, nevertheless, we believe it can be developed to serve its catchment area more effectively and also become a place people increasingly wish to visit.
With all the competition from the internet, out of town shopping and the other centres St Neots needs to continue to develop its own unique identity and offer.
There is clear evidence that where smaller towns do this, offering a range of leisure as well as retail facilities, they thrive.
It is also increasingly the case that a key ingredient in achieving this is the active engagement of the public authorities working in partnership with the private sector.
Central to success then will be how the town centre develops and we believe there are development opportunities and environmental improvements which can be exploited, whilst enhancing the character of this attractive market town.
In particular we believe the riverside offers huge potential and we wish to play our part as delivers of public services, including our role as Planning and Highway Authorities but also as potential active development partners, to make sure this opportunity is maximised for the benefit of the town.
From today we will be working with the Town Council and others to develop this vision and work unstintingly towards its delivery over the next five years and beyond."