Cash in pot for expansion
WHAT Cambridge Science Park is to research, Huntingdon could become to product development – bridging the gap between boffins and mass production of new products. Huntingdonshire District Council is looking to develop the corridor between Hinchingbrooke a
WHAT Cambridge Science Park is to research, Huntingdon could become to product development - bridging the gap between boffins and mass production of new products.
Huntingdonshire District Council is looking to develop the corridor between Hinchingbrooke and Brampton as it is ideally placed for companies specialising in moving ideas to prototype stage, the council's head of policy Ian Leatherbarrow told The Hunts Post.
Planners believe part of the Hinchingbrooke Hospital site that is set to be sold after patients moving to refurbished wards in the main hospital building would be a perfect location for such firms - close to the main line railway and the trunk road network.
Such a move would bring high quality jobs to the district at a time of rapid expansion.
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It is the business growth that could help HDC to pump-prime industrial expansion in the town, with the council receiving an extra £400,000 reward for expanding the £120million annual rateable value of commercial premises in the district.
Under the three-year Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme, HDC received £36,000 in 2006 and £453,000 earlier this year. But following a challenge by Slough and Corby councils, the High Court told the Treasury it had got its sums wrong, and HDC is one of scores of local authorities to benefit.
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The council's extra £400,000 brings the total pot to nearly £900,000 for the first two years of the scheme.
Although the money is not ring-fenced, the council is under pressure from local businesses - and the strong advice of some of its senior officers - to use the cash for further expansion of the district's business base.
"We are still expanding with rateable value having increased by £2.5million this year, so when we get next year's payment, we should have between £1million and £1.5million in the pot," said Mr Leatherbarrow.
The cabinet is asking for ideas about how to spend it and is keen to use it on schemes that promote economic growth, particularly in areas where it's unlikely to be driven by the market, or to mitigate the effects of growth, for example to improve public transport, town centres or leisure for additional employees."
Money in the pot could be used for "match-funding", where other organisations pay part of the cost of a development on condition that HDC kicks in, too.
The new creative enterprise centre in St Neots, which has attracted a total of £1.7million on the back of HDC's promise of £300,000, could be replicated in Ramsey as part of the town's Northgate re-development. Instead of creative enterprise on the Longsands site, it would promote environmental technology, possibly linked to Sawtry Community College's specialisation in computer science and Ramsey's Abbey College engineering focus. It would cost between £1million and £1.3million, initial estimates suggest.
But part of the money could also be used to help attract high value jobs to Huntingdon, as outlined in the "west of town centre" consultation being carried out by HDC.