Support crucial to improving Huntingdon town centre

Since 1998 Huntingdon Town Partnership (HTP) has supported Huntingdon and during this time there have been opportunities and threats for the town.

It is clear that there needs to be support for a destination, be it an indoor shopping centre, a big city or a market town. There have been opportunities for Huntingdon in 2012; the Jubilee and Olympic events were highlights, but there have also been threats. Most recently road works were proposed on the ring road during two critical pre-Christmas weekends in November, this work has been postponed to 2013, and now there is consultation on new car parking charges, which if introduced will have a very serious effect for the market towns in Huntingdonshire.

In 2005 a new approach to ‘town management’ was introduced in the UK called Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and now seven years on there are 150 BIDs. After observing for six years HTP looked at the feasibility for Huntingdon in 2011 and then started a seven month consultation with 300 businesses in January 2012, culminating in a confidential postal vote for all the eligible businesses. The overwhelming yes vote at 81 per cent will enable the businesses, under BID Huntingdon, to work as a true ‘Town Team’.

Huntingdon Town Partnership has passed responsibility for supporting the town to BID Huntingdon and we would like to say a big thank you to Angela Owen-Smith who chaired HTP for 14 years!

Where are the new developments which have been planned and seriously considered since 2010? Well the good news is they are all still on the drawing board and moving forward. Anticipated developments at Alconbury Weald and new housing in surrounding villages, makes Huntingdon an attractive prospect for new and existing business investors.

It is hoped that 2013 will see the start of some of the following projects: a new Sainsbury’s store; the division of the existing Sainsbury’s store into three; the link road at Huntingdon West; a multi storey car park; a department store; and the demolition and rebuilding of Chequers Court. BID Huntingdon will work to ensure these projects are dovetailed, disruption is kept to a minimum, and businesses and residents are kept informed of construction progress

Support for the town and its businesses, through marketing, promotions and events will be paramount in 2013 and the performance of Huntingdon will continue to be monitored: tracking empty units, encouraging landlords to address issues, working with new businesses, and focusing on increasing footfall, will all make a difference to the vibrancy of Huntingdon.

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This Christmas we have spent monies remaining from HTP to provide free entertainment on Saturdays in December and coordinating Father Christmas’ arrival on three Saturdays took some fancy footwork. Planning for ‘Christmas in Huntingdon 2013’ will start in good time and many of the major BID Huntingdon project, including a website for the town and its businesses, will be in place.

The future is bright for Huntingdon