Graffiti, chewing gum and a lack of floral displays and Christmas lights make Canterbury unattractive. That is the view of a board of business bosses who want to charge shop and restaurant owners a levy to make the city centre more appealing. Traders will head to the polls when the Canterbury Connected Business Improvement District (BID) ballot opens next week. The scheme involves imposing a charge on all businesses to pay for services including street cleaning and marketing. The amount each trader would pay depends on the rateable value of their business, and at least 51% would have to vote in favour of the BID for it to be imposed.
But the plan has divided the business community. Some think it will boost trade but others resent the prospect of forking out for a levy on top of the rates and taxes they already pay. According to the BiD business plan, its aim is to create a “vibrant, exciting, well-connected and successful business community” in the city, that is “attractive, green, safe and enjoyable” for shoppers, tourists and staff. BID shadow board chairman Clive Reif says:
“Canterbury city centre is a very important place for all of us. But we all know that it needs investment. In marketing, in developing new festivals and events, in deep cleaning the streets and subways, in getting hanging baskets up in summer and Christmas lights back in winter and in working with our businesses to help them trade here profitably, employ more people and invest in the city. And we also know that money to do these things is no longer available from local or central government, so as businesses we have to step up to the plate if we want them to happen.”
He says if traders vote yes, a total of £2.5 million in ring- fenced funding will be raised over the next five years and ploughed back into making the city better. There are more than 180 BIDs operating across the country, including in places like Brighton, Winchester, Guildford and Cambridge. Members of the BID board, made up of representatives from the city and county councils, police and the Canterbury Society, will be visiting traders to urge them to vote in favour of it. The ballot opens on Friday, June 18, and will close at 5pm on Thursday, July 17. For more information, visit www.canterburycp.co.uk/bid
WHAT THEY SAY
“I already pay enough in business tax. I can’t see how afew bunches of flowers and enforcement officers will help trade if there’s no one herr. We’re crying out for customers but they’re being frightened off by the prospect of a revised traffic trial and sky-high parking charges. The city does need looking after but we already pay our taxes for that reason.”
“I have always felt that Canterbury has huge potential as a tourist and retail destination, but for various reasons it never quite lives up to the expectation. I believe that the BID scheme will be the catalyst that will transform Canterbury into the world class destination that it deserves to be.”
Furniture store pledges to back the BID
One of Canterbury’s longest-established retailers has pledged its support for the city centre’s proposed Business Improvement District (BID) initiative. Furniture specialists Lenleys, in Roper Road, has pledged to back the BID with a voluntary £2,500 donation if the proposal goes ahead. MD Jonathan Watts said:
“Although Lenleys is located outside the area covered by the BID, we recognise the value that its success will bring to Canterbury as a whole and we are keen to see it go ahead. We are delighted to give the initiative our support and would urge all businesses in the BID area to vote yes to the proposals.”
The offer of financial support from Lenleys follows numerous pledges from other organisations that similarly lie outside the BID area. Clive Reif, Chair of the shadow BID Board, added:
“We have secured voluntary donations of almost £25.000. which is a tremendous endorsement of how valuable the BID is seen in terms of its potential to transform the centre of Canterbury as a place in which to live, work, shop, visit and study.”
All businesses in the BID area have now been sent a copy of the Business Plan, which sets out the BID proposal and how it would spend the £500,000 a year it would raise for city centre improvements. Voting begins on June 18 and continues until 5pm on Thursday, July 17.
Herne Bay Gazette, June 12th 2014