CHESTER could soon rival Liverpool and Manchester as a shopping centre, thanks to a new co-operative business group that will bring a £2.5 million cash boost.
Businesses in the city centre have voted overwhelmingly in favour of setting up a Business Improvement District (BID).
Voting has taken place over the past month and more than three-quarters of voters backed the scheme.
The group, called CH1ChesterBID, aims to boost the city’s profile nationally and drive up footfall using cash that companies and traders pay into a central pot.
Each must contribute one per cent of its rateable value, but the team says all will benefit from the projects and campaigns the money will pay for.
Kari Rodgers, senior store manager at Debenhams in Chester and CH1ChesterBID board member, said: “Up until now we’ve been powerless to stop ourselves falling further behind cities like Manchester and Liverpool. Now we can take control of our own destiny and do the things we know will get more local people and more visitors back on the high street. It really is an exciting time for Chester.”
About 300 businesses voted, equating to 60 per cent of the companies and traders in the BID area.
CH1ChesterBID chairman Paul Daniels said: “We’ve worked tirelessly to convince people the BID is our best option for improving our economic prospects, so we’re absolutely delighted the local business community has given us the opportunity to deliver a successful and sustainable commercial transformation.
“The BID will be key to better times for our business community and it will create positive change for our city centre.
“Working together, we can restore Chester’s reputation as the retail, business and leisure destination of choice for our business community, residents, investors and visitors.
“We would like to thank all the businesses for their support throughout the campaign, for having confidence in CH1ChesterBID and for voting ‘Yes’. We could not have achieved this without their backing and the support of our partners throughout the campaign.”
Seventy five per cent backed the BID, with the ‘yes’ votes representing 67 per cent of the total rateable value of all properties that voted. The BID needed to secure at least 51 per cent of ‘yes’ votes on both counts to win the ballot.
Mr Daniels added: “To secure a turnout of 60 per cent is well above the UK average and is testament to the hard work and determination of the BID team who have worked tirelessly to get us to this stage and were even chasing ballot papers right up until the voting deadline.
“We can now deliver on our pledge to reverse the decline and bring dedicated marketing campaigns to Chester, bigger and better events and festivals, a world class welcome for visitors, cheaper bills for BID area businesses, a sensible and affordable strategy for car parking for our businesses, residents and visitors and a more joined-up and united approach to city centre life.
“The hard work really starts now and we can’t wait to deliver improvements from September 1.”
The full BID term lasts from September 2014 to 2019. More than 500 businesses in the city centre with a rateable value of more than £18,000 will contribute a levy equal to one per cent of their business rates every year to generate about £2.5m of private sector funds that will be reinvested back into the city centre.
Board member Jason Ellison, owner of Chez Jules, said: “This is a real opportunity to address the challenges we’ve been facing and partnership is the key.
“The BID will bring our city-centre businesses together so we can work collaboratively to enhance and promote the city’s offer, making Chester a place where people want to visit, work and live.”
For more information about CH1ChesterBID, visit www.ch1chesterbid.co.uk