Hunts engineers’ move will make way for new road

AGRICULTURAL and groundcare equipment and engineering company Ruston is set to move from Huntingdon to St Neots, making way for the redevelopment of Huntingdon town centre.

The family company, which has been in business in Huntingdonshire for more than 125 years, will not lose its railway lineside location, however. It is set to quit its current site just north of Huntingdon station for part of the former Gates Hydraulic site, south of St Neots station.

The Reco (Ruston’s Engineering Ltd) part of the business was set up in St Germain Street, Huntingdon, in 1955 by Harold Ruston, who died last year at the age of 88 and whose son Nick still works for the firm.

The move will mean work can start on the �9.7million link road between the railway station at Brampton Road and Ermine Street, for which compulsory purchase orders were recently approved.

It will also free up land for the major expansion of Huntingdon town centre between the current ring road at St John’s Street, the railway line, Handscroft Lane and land owned by Tesco where Silent Channel used to stand.

The development, which includes demolition of the only town-centre industrial estate, will make way for a huge new Sainsbury’s supermarket and filling station, as well as other smaller shops, offices, homes and additional car parking.

The plan is that the existing Sainsbury’s store will be divided into three shops, the filling station will also be redeveloped for retail use, and the north side of Chequers Court will be completely redeveloped by owners Churchmanor Estates, including a new, larger Waitrose supermarket.

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At the same time Huntingdonshire District Council is developing a �3.5m 400-space multi-storey car park by the ring road at Nursery Road.

The new link road could cut ring-road traffic by 40-50 per cent in St John’s Street, making the expanded town centre a cohesive whole, Huntingdonshire District Council planners believe.

But little can realistically happen until �12m-a-year Reco moves south towards the end of the year.

The company bought the Gates ‘north building’ for �1.4m and will have spent as much again on a complete refurbishment of the offices, installation of cranes and changing the configuration of door openings, managing director John Walls told The Hunts Post.

The 30 HQ-based employees – around 10 more work off-site – are expected to decamp to St Neots early in November, taking with them several million pounds worth of farm machinery.

“Luckily, it’s our quieter time for stock, coming after harvest time, and we are able to have some equipment delivered directly to St Neots then,” he explained. “But it’s still quite a logistical task on top of getting the building ready for us.

“My mission is to get us moved without too much interruption. The office space is similar but the whole thing has a significantly smaller footprint than this massive site, where we’ve been spoiled for a long time.

“And we’ve been trying to use local builders wherever we can,” he added.

The move to St Neots means Reco has put earlier plans to locate to a site at Warboys airfield on hold. “It’s up to the board to decide what to do with that,” Mr Walls said.