Circle Insights

Why St Neots is a perfectly balanced place to live

Tolga Necar

This next blog in our series on balanced locations transports us to St Neots, a rapidly growing Cambridgeshire town with mediaeval heritage that is nestled along the River Great Ouse banks. With an intriguing blend of old-world and modern-day sights and amenities, a strong sense of a community and a picturesque atmosphere, St Neots was an undisputed pick as part of our list of perfectly balanced places to live per our report, “Six Pillars of Success: Building Resilient Places”.

If you have yet to read our blog that introduces these pillars, we consider a ‘perfectly balanced’ place to be:  

  • One that houses a suitable mix of chain and independent retailers at optimal sizes 
  • Supplies unique offline experiences that meet the community’s needs 
  • Provides community infrastructure that supports daily living 
  • Offers adequate residential properties for the community 
  • Offers employment opportunities and flexible working spaces 
  • Encourages time spent outdoors in green spaces.  

So, what exactly are the driving factors behind St Neots being a perfectly balanced place to live? 

Pillar 1: Representation & proper sizing of independent & chain retailers

St Neots features a strong provision of amenities and services. The town centre forms a well-balanced array of High Street brands like Fat Face and Argos and independent retailers accounting for 38% more of the retail offer than comparable locations, creating a strong sense of identity and place.  

For those looking for independently run wine, beer and spirits retailers, look no further than The Smiling Grape Company, an award-winning, family-owned wine merchant, or Shumë Bottle Emporium, a craft beer shop and bottle emporium carrying beers from around the world. Opting to put your creative skills to the test in an all-ages, all-skill levels pottery and craft studio? The Crafty Monkey Pottery Shop has something for everyone. 

The town’s market square is also one of the largest and most ancient in England, dating back to the 12th century. Every Thursday since its foundation, the Charter Market takes place here through the daytime, with stalls offering fresh produce, clothing and artisanal finds. There’s also a bi-weekly Saturday Farm and Craft Market featuring local traders and crafts makers offering meats and produce, baked goods, flowers and plants and handmade crafts. 

For special occasions, or even to spruce up an everyday space, the County Fayre Florist has been a prime choice for locals for over three decades. A Hotel Chocolat factory and cafe outlet is also popular among locals in search of high-quality chocolate at lower prices than on the High Street, or for an ice cream or hot chocolate treat at the cafe.

Pillar 2: Uniquely tailored offline experiences

St Neots’ strong catering offer is mainly independently led, with many multi-function restaurants and cafes for visitors to enjoy.  

Roberto’s Deli is one of these—part-deli and part-pizza restaurant, this authentic Italian deli offers artisanal produce alongside dine-in options, making it a hit with visitors. For an all-encompassing cafe, art gallery and creative hub experience, Art & Soul encourages visitors to savour moments of tranquility by viewing art, checking out a gig, getting some work done or catching up with friends over a coffee all in one place. The Pig n Falcon is also a popular watering hole among locals for its live music and warm, traditional pub atmosphere.  

While Pizza Express is the town centre’s only chain restaurant, a Cineworld is in its vicinity, making for a great evening on the town. In contrast, its independent restaurant selection (including Il Girasole) and pubs like The River Mill offer quality food and pet-friendly atmospheres. 

Locals and visitors will also find a bowling alley, library and museum in the town’s centre. A broad range of bars, restaurants and cafes also cater to a variety of food groups and preferences (Ferro Lounge, a vegan dog-friendly cafe, being one of them), along with a few small tearooms for vegan and gluten free visitors. 

Pillar 3: Engaging community infrastructure

Lining the town’s streets are large chain supermarkets like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer along with independent alteration, shoes, arts & crafts shops and beauty salons and health and community services, meeting locals’ various needs.

Overlooking the town is also the alluring (and unmissable) 130-foot tower of St Neots Parish Church. Originating in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 15th, it serves as a community hub for gatherings and for relishing the centuries of craftsmanship visible in both its interior and exterior. 

The town is also easily commutable from the neighbouring towns of Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Peterborough and more, with fast and direct train links to both London and Peterborough available. 

Pillar 4: Support social cohesion through optimised residential design

Housing in St Neots indulges a range of preferences and budgets, from Victorian and Edwardian homes and cottages to more modern developments. A combination of high earnings (£48,007 on average) and relatively low house prices (£306,497) contribute to the town’s affordability. Houses in the area are 6.4x the average salary (compared with a UK national average of 7.4x), and monthly average private rent payments of £877 account for 22% of earnings (against a UK town average of 26%).  

Terraced and detached properties have been increasingly sought after, along with semi-detached properties. The town’s proximity to larger cities like London, Cambridge and Peterborough has also appealed to many renters and homebuyers.  

Pillar 5: Sufficient & accessible work opportunities for the local population

Job opportunities are available in many sectors in St Neots, notably in healthcare, manufacturing and retail. A half-hour drive or hour-long public transportation commute to Cambridge opens plenty of additional working opportunities for St Neots locals, especially in technology and innovation. Nearly half (48%) of the adult population is employed full-time (against a UK average of 42%).  

There is also a community Facebook group, St Neots Referrals & Recommendations, where locals share recommendations and insights for new job listings.  

Pillar 6: Appealing open spaces for the community to dwell in

St. Neots is home to many parks and green spaces for locals and visitors to enjoy. With the River Great Ouse flowing through the town and parks just steps away from the town centre, breathtaking scenery can easily be found.  

Riverside Park, for example, is a popular destination for both locals and visitors, offering 72 acres of greenery that holds enormous weeping willow trees, picnic areas, children’s play areas and walking and cycling paths galore. Every Saturday, locals can partake in a free 5K parkrun, or can spend a lively Sunday attending one of the concerts held throughout the summer. Sports club events like the Dragon Boat Festival and St Neots Rowing Regatta are held in Riverside Park, making the most of the River Ouse. 

There’s also the historic Georgian era Priory Park, which now serves as an open space for leisurely activities like picnics and dog walking to sponsored events like runs and activity clubs for children in the summer. Sports enthusiasts can also make use of the park’s five football pitches and several mini soccer pitches.

For glimpses of some of the area’s richest wildlife habitats, a trip to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, packed with 78 hectares of lakes, meadows, woodlands and more, promises sightings of nightingales, cormorants and several other varieties of birds and mammals

In the next and final blog of this series, we’ll share one more pick for a ‘perfectly balanced’ place to live.  
To learn how our six property pillars can help ensure you are creating resilient places, please speak to one of our Placemaking and Property experts.

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Tolga Necar