St Neots already has a comprehensive annual community events programme; the majority of the larger scale events are organised and funded by St Neots Town Council, although several well-established local organisations also successfully contribute towards the annual programme. Across the year St Neots has more than twenty large-scale, well-supported events, all of which are free to attend. The largest annual events include the Armed Forces Day Gala, Dragon Boat Festival, Rowing Regatta and Christmas Lights Switch On which all attract in excess of 5,000 attendees and are well supported by local businesses. Other popular cultural events include the Museum’s Living History Festival, Food and Drink Festival, Business Showcase, Summer Band Concerts, Film Festival and May Day Fete.
In August 2018 the Inland Waterways have chosen to hold their annual Festival of Water in St Neots, which will see visitors from near and far descend upon the town. The festival attracts more than 100 boaters, campers and 7,000 attendees are expected to visit St Neots over the course of the weekend.
The County Council’s Library Service is programming arts activity as part of The Library Presents programme. Two seasons, Autumn and Spring, will be hosted by St Neots Library in the Town Centre. These will be a mix of evening and family-friendly daytime events, which are selected by local people from a ‘Menu’ of high-quality activity. Some events may be held in alternative St Neots locations, as the Library may not be large enough. The Library Presents is funded for four years by Arts Council England (previous programmes available, next season begins Sept 18).
As there is already a wide breadth of events taking place across the town, the Masterplan project should look to build on the success of established events, opening them to a wider audience and enhancing the offer. St Neots Town Council has already started engaging with town centre stakeholders to gain an opinion on which events and activities would benefit businesses in the town centre and increase footfall
But there is currently insufficient human resource to deliver the quantum of desired activity. This project will see the two-year provision of a full-time events and promotions manager and a small additional operational budget to work alongside SNTC to enhance the delivery of the existing events programme with additional and/or bigger events and promotion campaigns. In the first instance, the detailed feasibility of a Business Improvement District (BID) being established will be pursued as it is proposed that the BID mechanism could be used to provide a longer-term source of funding to support this additional activity for up to 5 additional years and possibly beyond.
Since the national legislation was passed in the UK 14 years ago, BIDs have become one of the most popular and sustainable place management funding tools in the country. With almost 300 BIDs operating in the UK, they have proven to be a sustainable source of funding to help places proactively manage improvements and initiatives that promote the growth and well-being of a locality. BIDs are established by means of a ballot of potential levy payers and where they have been in operation for a 5-year period and gone to a second or third term ballot, support is almost always increased, clearly demonstrating the value perceived by the businesses that are paying for them.
In 2017 51% of BIDs reported other external investment income as a direct result of their BID activity. With a leverage factor of 0.31, BIDs in total increased the income into their community above their own levy income by 31%.