‘More visitors will be drawn to St Albans’ if area turned into Business Improvement District (BID)

PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 November 2016

Crowds of people on St Peter's Street

Crowds of people on St Peter's Street

Archant

With scores of a business enhancement schemes successfully operating around the UK, supporters of a similar project proposed for St Albans say more visitors will be drawn to this historic area.

St Albans City Centre Partnership launched a campaign to create a Business Improvement District (BID) in January this year, with hundreds of shops, cafes and estate agents currently voting on whether to back the scheme, via an additional 1.8 per cent levy.

This extra funding would provide about £525,000 annually over five years, with hopes to improve the look of the centre with the likes of street furniture and floral displays. It would also result in the employment of ‘street rangers’ to report antisocial behaviour.

The city centre would host more events, such as extra festivals and markets, and additional funding would be provided for the Christmas Lights switch-on.

Car park rates might be subsidised during low footfall periods.

Richard Marrett, from the partnership, said that despite fears that the 1.8 per cent levy would rise in line with inflation, that figure was locked in and would not increase over the next five years – before the next cycle of the scheme begins.

Revaluations will also not affect payments, so the levy will not increase should the rateable value of businesses increase during the scheme’s period.

The 2017-2022 budget for the project’s expenditure shows that £80,000 would be spent annually on marketing and promotion, £100,000 on annual events and £30,000 on business support each year.

Staff costs would be £60,000 a year, with £20,000 to be spent on office needs.

Earlier this year, Cllr Beric Read, the district council’s portfolio holder for localism, said the BID was a ‘very exciting proposal’ as it would improve the city centre, and “give a strong voice to local businesses.

“There are around 200 BIDs in the UK including ones in Luton, Hitchin, Bedford and Watford. We don’t want businesses in St Albans to miss out on this opportunity.”

Assuming the ballot, which closes at 5pm next Thursday (10), is successful, a not for profit BID company would operate from April next year, run by an interim board until its first AGM, when elections would be held.

St Albans City Centre Partnership has been set up to support the board, which will be responsible for implementing the scheme’s business plan.

For more details, including the budget and how the BID will work, see www.stalbansbid.com/business/st-albans-city-district-council

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