The Canterbury City Partnership has formally notified the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government of its intention to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) – Canterbury Connected – if it can win the backing of local firms for the project.
If successful, Canterbury city centre, as Canterbury Connected, will be following in the footsteps of 170 other areas across the UK designated as BIDs in the past ten years including Brighton, Winchester, Guildford and Cambridge.
BIDs are business-led, business-funded partnerships marking out their areas attractive destinations and successful trading centres – supporting established companies and attracting new investment.
Bob Jones, executive chair of the Canterbury City Partnership, said: “A BID would make a big difference to our city. Canterbury Connected would implement a destination management plan and establish the city centre as a strong brand backed by local businesses sharing marketing collateral and intelligence.
“Canterbury Connected would address problems which currently blight our street scene and leave a poor impression such as the subways, poor signage, graffiti and chewing gum – first by making sure the councils are doing their job properly and only then, if necessary, adding to what they already do. We would improve how the city looks with floral displays in the summer and attractive Christmas lights.
“And we can ensure that businesses have an influence on key issues that frustrate many firms in the city centre such as internet connectivity.
“A BID brings businesses together – sharing knowledge and expertise and a combined voice to work with the county council, the local council and the police to influence strategy and decisions as well as delivering real improvements for businesses in the city.
“We will work with businesses to reduce utility costs, improve their access to customers and make sure that the BID is an investment for them, not a cost.”
To go ahead, Canterbury Connected needs to gain the support of a majority of the city centre’s 650 businesses – by both number and rateable value.
If the proposal is accepted then each business in the city centre would pay Canterbury Connected a levy on properties with a rateable value above £1,700 of 1.5 per cent – 97 per cent of all businesses – raising £500,000 each year.
Mr Jones said: “For half of all our businesses Canterbury Connected would cost just £315 a year or less. And they would know the funds are being used to support their business and its growth within the city.
“Currently companies across the whole of the Canterbury City Council area pay £49 million to the government in business rates but the council receives less than 10 per cent back as part of its general settlement – none is ring-fenced to support business.
“Canterbury Connected will mean that money contributed by local businesses will directly boost local businesses. And it will be run by a 17-strong board, consisting of 14 business levy payers elected by the business community, two representatives of the local authorities which will also be levy payers, and the BID manager. The board will always be chaired by a business levy payer.”
Information about developing proposals for Canterbury Connected is to be rolled out to businesses across the city via e-newsletters and a website and a Canterbury Connected conference in May. The BID business plan will be circulated to all businesses in the city later in the spring and the postal ballot will be held on July 17.
Find out more about the proposed Canterbury Connected BID at www.canterburycp.co.uk/bid/