St Albans business group launches major initiative to boost city centre

New city centre manager Richard Marrett

New city centre manager Richard Marrett - Credit: Archant

An ambitious plan to create a Business Improvement District in St Albans to boost the local economy has been launched this week.

An ambitious plan to create a Business Improvement District in St Albans to boost the local economy has been launched this week.

The scheme is intended to enhance the city centre, attract more visitors, generate jobs and give a powerful voice to business.

St Albans City Centre Partnership unveiled their proposal in detail at an official launch hosted by St Albans Chamber of Commerce yesterday.

It kickstarts a major campaign to win support for the plan, including consultations with the various groups that will be affected.

Businesses will then vote at a ballot in the autumn to decide if they want to go ahead with the Government-recognised scheme.

City Centre manager Richard Marrett said: “This is about improving what is great about St Albans and developing it further.”

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BIDs first started in 2004 and there are now around 200 in Britain generating a combined £65 million in levies, which is spent locally. Nearby towns with a BID in place include Watford, Luton, Hitchin and Bedford.

Around 500 businesses are based in the area that includes St Peter’s Street, the High Street, Chequer Street and Holywell Hill.

Richard said businesses will provide the funding by being charged 1.8 per cent of their rateable value. Businesses with rateable values of less than £10,000 will be exempt.

Approximately £500,000 a year will be raised and the money spent on a range of projects such as staging entertainment events, improving the street furniture, reducing antisocial behaviour and promoting the city.

St Albans Chamber director Michael Weaver welcomed the news: “A Business Improvement Development scheme for St Albans would be a partnership of city centre businesses designed to improve the whole trading environment of the city. In a retail world that faces so many difficulties, this is an opportunity to turn the tide and boost in particular the visitor economy. These schemes have already been adopted by virtually every other cathedral city in the country, what is St Albans waiting for?

“Indeed there is a cost, but it is a total misconception to say this is an increase in rates. It is much more an advertisement for the whole image of St Albans, a means of really making our city attractive and not being council-led all monies are spent on exactly what the businesses want.

“I am mighty glad Richard Marrett has taken the bull by the horns and is driving this forward. I aim to help him as much as I can and am delighted that I have now been seconded to the City Centre Partnership. It’s nice to think that after eight years a now very positive council has lent its support for this initiative.”