Council approves £2.3 million funding for community projects

Nine projects that improve the quality of life for residents in East Cambridgeshire have been awarded £2.3million funding.

East Cambridgeshire District Council originally set aside £2million for its Growth and Infrastructure Fund.

However, Councillors at Thursday's Finance and Assets Committee were so impressed with the high calibre of the nine projects which met the criteria for funding, they agreed to add a further £300,000 to the budget so all could be funded.

A total £800,000 will be given to Soham Town Council for the hugely anticipated Soham to Wicken cycleway. This funding completes the funding package needed to provide a long fought for active travel route between the two settlements, avoiding the need for residents to use the busy A1123.

A further £250,000 grant will go towards adapting the footbridge linking Wicken Fen with Burwell Lodge, helping to further open up this area for active travel.

The National Trust scheme, which is supported by Sustrans, will allow walkers, cyclists, horse riders, wheelchair users and pushchairs easy access across the waterway. Grazing animals will also have a segregated route over the bridge, allowing them free movement between Wicken Fen and Lodes Way.

£124,056 will go towards extending Spencer Mill in Soham to create an apprenticeship, trainee and learning hub for the Viva Arts and Community Group. £51,350 has been allocated for the refurbishment and soundproofing of the main hall and lounge areas at Soham Town Rangers Football Club.

Stretham Parish Council will receive £700,000 towards the cost of a new Community Hub and GP rooms at Plantation Gate. Subject to planning permission, the Hub will replace the existing committee rooms which are no longer fit for purpose and the condemned Stretham GP Surgery building with a vibrant multi-use facility that can be used for celebrations, meetings, performances, clubs, groups and corporate events, and the new GP facilities will ensure that the GP services can once again be delivered from the village.

Little Thetford and Witchford will benefit from funds to help their village halls operate more sustainably. Witchford Playing Fields Association has been granted £191,535 towards the cost of expanding its halls to create new changing facilities for sports clubs and a flexible space for indoor activities. Solar panels will also be incorporated into the design. Little Thetford Village Hall will receive £63,000 towards the cost of converting its hall so it runs on renewable energy from solar panels.

A further £105,000 has been allocated to Bottisham Parish Council for the purchase of land for a new cemetery and £22,265 has been awarded to Isleham Community Association towards the cost of a commercial kitchen.

Applicants had to provide evidence the projects will support local growth, benefit the community and have support from local residents and stakeholders. They must also align with the Council's priorities and be sustainable, with a commitment to be net carbon zero. Each project also needed to secure 10 per cent match funding.

The Growth and Infrastructure Fund utilises money the Council has secured from Cambridgeshire Horizons. Cambridgeshire Horizons is a company that holds historical funds, originally received from central Government, to deliver projects that support growth in the country.

Working with other Council leaders, Councillor Anna Bailey, Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, was able to negotiate funds from Cambridgeshire Horizons to benefit East Cambridgeshire specifically.

She said: "We have been overwhelmed by the calibre of the projects that met the criteria for the fund, and delighted to be able to dig deep to ensure all of them received the funding they need to get these fantastic projects delivered.

"The multiple benefits each of these projects will bring to their local communities will far, far outweigh what they have cost financially to deliver. Together they provide opportunities to support walking and cycling, enhance wellbeing, encourage residents to keep fit and enjoy the natural environment."

The Growth and Infrastructure Fund is additional to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds that the Council collects from developers to deliver new infrastructure to support the growing district. To date, over £10million of CIL funds have been spent on leisure centres, recreation fields, country parks, village halls, GP surgeries, car parks, youth centres, new roads and cultural facilities such as Viva Mill and Ely Museum. Over £3.8m has also been passported to Parish, Town and City Councils.

Councillor Bailey said "Our district has experienced huge growth in recent years, and residents quite rightly want to see the supporting infrastructure to go with that, so providing additional funds to support these projects put forward by our communities is a huge pleasure and I hope residents will be pleased to see them coming forward."