Six potential projects presented at "Positive" St Neots Public Forum

The historic Oast House in St Neots was one of the projects presented at the St Neots Public Forum on July 16.

The historic Oast House in St Neots was one of the projects presented at the St Neots Public Forum on July 16. - Credit: Archant

St Neots Town Council hosted a Public Forum on Saturday to give people the chance to hear about community projects that need funding and can improve life in the town.

Due to significant expansion and housing in the area, some "substantial funding" is becoming available, and the council wants to open a dialogue with the public to help to decide how best to spend it the Community Infrastructure Levy which comes from housing developers.

More than 80 people attended the meeting at the Priory Centre on July 16. They listened to six separate presentations..

Speaking after the meeting, the mayor of St Neots, Cllr Ben Pitt, told The Hunts Post: "We’re trying to focus on opportunities for doing things that are positive, and I think it went really well. 

"People really engaged, and all the six presenters did a brilliant job of putting forward their projects and the ideas behind them. The reception was generally really positive, so it was a success.” 

The forum began at 10am with a presentation from St Neots Museum, proposing a refurbishment and extension to its facilities.

The aim is to transform the museum into a cultural hub for the town and allow people to learn more about the local heritage.

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A presentation from Revamp the Ramp followed, which shared their goal of refurbishing the Riverside Skatepark, ensuring it remains maintained, is safe to use and can host competitions.

Access in St Neots then spoke to discuss a Changing Places facility. The proposed facility location would be in Riverside car park and could be vital for adults, children and disabled people who require additional changing and toileting needs.

A St Neots resident then presented plans for a CityTree bio-active clean air filter to be placed in the middle of the town. A CityTree is a dust filter for urban spaces and cleans the surrounding air.

St Neots Aquatic and Leisure followed with its Splashpad project, which has been in the planning stages for six years due to some well publicised funding issues. The splashpad will act as a fully inclusive water and play area for families and children.

To finish the meeting, Cllr Pitt presented the Oast House project, which is exploring the possibility of utilising the unoccupied 18th-century brewery and grade II listed building adjacent to the Priory Centre.

Those ideas included a microbrewery, brewery museum and brewery school. Or it could incorporate different elements such as a bar, cafe, event venue, event/theatre, community space or dance studio. 

If the council agree to fund any of the projects, the money will come from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments, which are a result of new housing developments in the area.

The council can decide to distribute the funds to any number of projects as long as it is for the "provision, improvement, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure or anything else that addresses the demands that development places on the area."

The current level of CIL reserves at St Neots Town Council is £1,446,846. Further CIL payments in the low millions of pounds are expected over the next decade, as Wintringham and Love's Farm Phase two are built.

Cllr Pitt added: "The job of the council now is to reflect on those presentations and think about putting together a strategy for how the council will spend its CIL contributions over the next term of this council (four years from May)."

“There is always going to be conversations to be had before we can say yes or no, but I think it is going to be an ongoing process for each of these projects and some of them are a lot more complicated than others. 

"I recognise that we probably can't do it all, and the six ideas we heard on Saturday won’t be the full extent of people's ideas, so that’s the beginning of the conversation.  

The next step for the St Neots Town council will be to report to councillors who were not in attendance and organise a full council meeting.

At the future meeting, a strategy will be drawn up, ensuring that the priorities of the town are met through each project.