Initiative to boost town's trade

AN INITIATIVE to boost businesses in a Suffolk market town could be launched in the New Year if retailers give it the go-ahead.

Will Clarke

AN INITIATIVE to boost businesses in a Suffolk market town could be launched in the New Year if retailers give it the go-ahead.

The Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Management (TCM) Board hopes to create the region's first Business Improvement District.

In the scheme, which has already been implemented in other UK towns, businesses are asked to pay a levy on top of their business rates to help pay for town wardens and Christmas lights.

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In return business bosses will have a say about how the money is spent and what initiatives will go on to shape the town centre.

The concept for the district has been put to Bury Town Council and it now needs the approval of retailers who are taking part in a survey.

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Steve Peters, TCM manager, said: “We have just carried out an extensive survey of 370 businesses and we are correlating the results now.

“We presented our initial ideas to the town council at its last meeting and we will publish the results of the survey in January.”

Chrissy Harrod, chairman of the TCM board and president of the chamber of commerce, admitted she was initially sceptical but was won over after seeing the advantages in areas which had already adopted the scheme.

She said: “It is something we want everyone to be involved with - it is a vision of the future.

“The whole idea is to improve the centre of Bury. It will be more accountable and responsive, and it has been very successful elsewhere.

“We want to look into it and hopefully go forward with it.”

The levy, which has not yet been set, is expected to be in the region of 1% of businesses' profits, but with an exemption for smaller firms.

Vice-chairman of the TCM board, John Deane-Bowers, said he hoped retailers would recognise the opportunity.

He said: “It is such an important issue for Bury and this scheme could really help bring a massive improvement as to how we go about funding the initiatives that we feel are important, that effect our business environment and the attractiveness of Bury.”

For further information on Business Improvements District visit:

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