BID project remains on track

A VOTE which could lead to the creation of East Anglia's first Business Improvement District remains on course to take place in June, following a positive response to a survey of businesses, residents, shoppers and visitors.

A VOTE which could lead to the creation of East Anglia's first Business Improvement District remains on course to take place in June, following a positive response to a survey of businesses, residents, shoppers and visitors.

More than 2,000 questionnaires were distributed to canvass views on proposals to launch a Business Improvement District (BID) in Ipswich which, if approved, would involve a supplementary charge payable by all business ratepayers in the town centre to fund a specified list of improvement.

National research company New Horizon, which conducted the independent research, has reported a 52% response to the survey, indicating broad support for a BID to tackle issues in five key areas.

These include: making Ipswich cleaner; making the town safer; providing more quality marketing, promotions and events; improving access to the town; and enhancing the “look and feel” of Ipswich.

Detailed proposals to address these issues will now be drawn up, with campaigning to persuade business ratepayers to back the scheme due to begin at the end of April and a postal ballot of all eligible businesses following during June.

To win approval, the scheme will require support representing both a majority of all business ratepayers in the town centre and a majority of the commercial floor space within the zone.

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The research – commissioned by Ipswich Experience, the organisation set up as the vehicle to progress the project – covered not only town centre businesses which stand to be affected by the BID but also residents, visitors, other stakeholders and groups identified as not currently using or visiting the town.

The aim was to identify improvements which would encourage existing visitors to use Ipswich more and help the town to attract new visitors, to the overall benefit of the businesses which would pay for them.

Chris Hollins, managing director of New Horizon, said that while credit was given to the huge amount of work done across the town centre recently, it was clear what was wanted from the BID.

“There is a consistency across all the audiences we sampled pointing the BID towards the five core themes,” he said.

“Our extensive research shows that the BID must concentrate on a small number of effective, high-profile actions that specifically address the concerns of businesses and give them obvious added value.

“Applying our five core themes approach, and promoting the direct benefits of each to our stakeholders and their workers and customers, I believe Ipswich Experience stands an excellent chance of achieving the required dual majority vote to go ahead and create a successful BID for Ipswich.”

Ipswich Experience chairman Alistair Lang added: “The comprehensive research we have undertaken supports our initial instinct and shows clearly that there is significant support for a BID in Ipswich.

“However the research also indicates that there is much to tackle to get it right. We will be spending the next phase working up and delivering specific and practical proposals for the five core projects so that everyone will feel positive about voting 'Yes' for the Ipswich Bid in the summer.”

A total of 22 town centre locations in England have so far voted in favour of a BID, including Birmingham, Bedford, Coventry, Rugby and Reading, with five more to vote shortly.