New life is being breathed into an area just outside Chester city centre which has been in desperate need of a ‘champion’ in recent years.
Businesses on Sealand Industrial Estate and West Chester Employment Park have voted in favour of creating a Business Improvement District (BID) in the hope it will improve their fortunes.
The area will now benefit from five years of sustained investment totalling nearly £500,000, with the money going towards delivering improvements in image, security, signage and business support.
Social enterprise Groundwork is behind the scheme and has already begun working with Cheshire West and Chester Council and the businesses to deliver improvements since this summer’s vote.
West Chester commercial BID chairman, Jordi Morell, said: “It is excellent the businesses here have truly embraced the BID and a success at the ballot now means we will all be able to benefit from the essential services that a BID will deliver and see the business park improve as a result.”
BIDs give businesses a say in how their trading environment is run, with firms paying a one per cent levy on top of their business rates to help fund improvements. There are more than 200 BIDs across the country, and there has been one operating in Chester city centre – representing about 300 businesses – since 2014.
Jane Hough, BID project manager at Groundwork, said: “I am delighted that Sealand and West Chester Employment Park has been successful in securing a BID and that Groundwork can now work with the companies in the West Chester commercial BID area to develop a brighter future.
“We have lots of exciting projects planned going forward over the next five years and we will look forward to making a real difference for those that work and trade here.”
Mobile security patrols have already been set up, and businesses have been issued with DNA marking kits to help them track down their property in the event of a theft. BID officials have also begun to liaise with Cheshire Constabulary over ways to reduce crime in the area.
The need for security patrols was highlighted by business owners during a consultation period held before the BID vote in July. There were also concerns over poorly maintained signage and insufficient on-road parking.
One business owner said: “This large network of businesses needs a champion. The signage is poor, the whole area lacks identity and there is a constant untidiness and shabbiness to the area.”
Another said: “I would like to see a better look to the area with more character and community.”
Another complained: “Having looked at alternative sites, it brought home that our current site lacks prestige considering we are in the cultural centre of Chester.”
Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for Economic Development and Infrastructure at CWaC, said: “It is fantastic to see the businesses on Sealand and West Chester Employment Park taking control and creating a future.
“The council will be delighted to support all companies on the park with regards to the improvement of any opportunities that will boost both trading and employment for West Chester Commercial BID.”
See full story in the Chester Leader