EMERGING businesses in St Ives are to get some help from the district council in finding premises. At present, St Ives is the only market town in Huntingdonshire not to have council-run starter units, of which there is an acute shortage. But last evening

EMERGING businesses in St Ives are to get some help from the district council in finding premises.

At present, St Ives is the only market town in Huntingdonshire not to have council-run starter units, of which there is an acute shortage.

But last evening (Thursday) HDC's cabinet approved a £1million-plus scheme to provide 'green' homes for 14 new small firms on the site of the former council depot on the town's industrial estate.

The site has been vacant since the operations department moved all its activities to new £6.4million premises in Latham Road, Huntingdon, just off the A141, two years ago as part of its headquarters revamp.

Now HDC is to spend £1.143million to build eight small industrial units and six offices on the site in Caxton Road. When complete, it will bring to 75 the number of council-owned premises occupied by small firms - there are 24 in Huntingdon, 23 in St Neots and 14 in Ramsey. In addition, the Creative Exchange, on the Longsands campus in St Neots, offers office-type accommodation for emerging creative businesses.

The council is helped in the venture by £285,000 raised some time ago by the sale of the freehold of one of its Huntingdon premises to the company that was occupying it as a tenant. The cash was ring-fenced to capital expenditure on economic development and will now be put to use if the cabinet approves the plan.

HDC's estates and property manager Keith Phillips said: "The intention is to provide a flexible mixed development of work spaces and small offices for new and small businesses. The construction of good-quality business premises will also help to improve the attractiveness of the industrial estate."

The opening of the St Ives-Cambridge guided busway - scheduled for November 29 - would help to maximise opportunities arising from the Caxton Road initiative, he added.

"Schemes of this type have a proven track record in helping to achieve the aims of the local economic strategy, particularly in the start-up of small businesses.

"Importantly, the scheme also presents an opportunity to implement the council's environment strategy by improving waste and energy efficiency, by using renewable resources, and by showcasing and promoting the green agenda for business premises."

Among the green components of the design will be reduced emissions, rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing, air-source heating, a sedum roof, low-energy lighting and a co-operative recycling system.

Rents are expected to start at around £8 per square foot for the industrial units and £15 for the office accommodation.

Cambridgeshire County Council has offered a contribution of £150,000 towards to capital cost.