Being located within a government-designated 'national growth area' has been an important factor in local housing policy and the town of St Neots continues to thrive and expand. A major expansion is ongoing, particularly on the outskirts, for example, at Love's Farm (east of the railway line) around 1250 homes have recently been built and a further 4000 have been proposed under the Eastern Expansion Plan.
Below are some examples of other significant developments both recently completed or proposed.
A Historic New Transport Link
In 2011 a new foot and cycle bridge was built across the River Ouse (situated just to the rear of North Laurels House). For the first time in their history, this directly connects the communities of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury.
Named 'Willow Bridge' it is a bow arch construction which has a span of 346 metres including access ramps.
A Controversial New Arts Centre
Probably the most notable recent addition to the town is the new Rowley Arts Centre which opened in 2014. This 6-screen, 4-restaurant complex was built off Huntingdon Street on the site of the town's former recycling centre. Named after its major benefactor (see below) it also contains a public plaza and play area and has the capability for theatre and other live performances.
Although undoubtedly a major amenity for the town it had a lengthy and turbulent conception. The scheme originated in 2006 when the town received a generous donation of £1 million, from US businessman Peter Rowley (pictured below), to be used for a new leisure facility. Although based in the USA, Mr Rowley's family originated from St Neots, where they had been Lord's of the Manor since 1902, and the funds came from the sale of the Love's Farm site to developers. Unfortunately, the townsfolk were divided as to how this should be spent, with the main suggestions being a cinema complex, an outdoor swimming pool or a new youth and community centre. It was only after more than a year, after threats to withdraw funding, that the cinema complex was finally chosen.
Despite vociferous objections from some adjacent residents, planning permission was finally granted in 2011. However, a major hiccup occurred during construction when a sharp-eyed local resident spotted the building was being erected 75cm too close to their home. This resulted in an 8-month delay while the partially built structure was taken down and re-assembled in the correct position, reportedly costing an extra £1 million! Sadly Mr Rowley did not live to see the opening of the complex but nevertheless, it is a fine legacy for the town.
A Vision of the Future
Future developments of the town are being discussed as part of the 'St Neots Neighborhood Plan'.This is being drawn up by the town council in consultation with the local community in line with the Localism Act of 2011 (aimed at giving local communities more of a voice in planned development).
The broad objectives are to focus on improving traffic flow and employment opportunities, protecting open spaces and creating even better shopping and leisure environment with a view to further enhancing the town's position as the leading market town in Huntingdonshire.
Some interesting specific proposals being considered include: an outdoor theatre in Riverside Park, a bandstand in Regatta Meadow, a new outdoor swimming pool, a multi-storey car park, improvements to local trunk roads (e.g. of of the riverfront and the town centre (particularly for 'active frontage' of riverside food and drink outlets).dualling of A428), construction of a northern bypass, further integration