Urban village plan moves on

REGENERATION of St Neots town centre took a further step forwards last week. Public consultation on the future of a blocked-off urban village was approved by Huntingdonshire s cabinet. Most of the site, between High Street and Brook Street near St Mary

REGENERATION of St Neots town centre took a further step forwards last week.

Public consultation on the future of a "blocked-off urban village" was approved by Huntingdonshire's cabinet.

Most of the site, between High Street and Brook Street near St Mary's Church, has been in poor repair for many years, the cabinet heard. It has a number of different uses, including a DIY shop, storage buildings, a motor mechanic, a tanning studio, a tattoo parlour, a church hall and car parking.

Part of the site is earmarked for housing, but there has been little chance of implementing it because there are so many landowners.

The new masterplan for St Mary's Urban Village is HDC's attempt to unblock obstacles to smartening up the area. Planners say inappropriate uses detract from the setting of the early-18th century Grade II* Brook House, considered one of the finest buildings in St Neots, and Grade I St Mary's Church.

It is part of the development of a vision for the town proposed two years ago by the civic society.

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The site, part of the historic core of St Neots, is bounded on all sides by the town centre and includes most of the area between Church Walk and South Street. It has changed little in a century, the cabinet heard.

The consultation document envisages largely residential development, with some commercial and community uses. In addition to enhancing Brook House, it envisages renovating the buildings that have interest or potential, knocking others down, and creating public spaces.

Councillor Nick Guyatt, who was responsible for planning when the masterplan was devised, said the site could include leisure space for older teenagers and young adults separate from play areas for younger children.

The cabinet also adopted planning guidance for an area near the old fire station site that includes the town centre household waste disposal facility, following public consultation earlier this year.

Cambridgeshire County Council is looking for a new site for the recycling centre on the edge of the town, possibly adjacent to the A428.

Councillor Guyatt accepted some people would be inconvenienced by the move, but far more would benefit.

Part of the site earmarked for housing is currently public open space. But even Councillor Jean Chandler, a staunch champion of protecting such areas vigorously, accepted that it would be acceptable to lose a quarter of that land if that was the price for major improvement of the rest of it.

"It's better to have high quality open space than wastelands," Cllr Guyatt agreed.

The planners now expect the area to be redeveloped largely for residential and retail use.

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