Ipswich: Wide support for extension of Ipswich Central town centre Business Improvement District (BID) project

THE prospects of Ipswich town centre’s Business Improvement District (BID) initiative being extended beyond its initial five-year term have received a major boost.

A survey of local and national businesses based within the BID zone, conducted by Ipswich Central, the company responsible for delivering the programme, has revealed high levels of satisfaction with the results achieved so far.

And the survey findings also show a strong preference for the initiative, which is about to enter the final year of its current term, to continue.

A BID is an arrangement under which businesses within a designated area fund improvements to the local trading environment through the payment of a levy.

The programme overseen by Ipswich Central has included the introduction of Street Rangers, improved liaison between stores over security, promotional initiatives including reduced-fee parking schemes and additional street cleaning, as well as a drive to attract new retailers to the town.

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The survey found that nearly nine out of 10 local businesses (87%) felt the role of Ipswich Central was valuable, nearly three-quarters (72%) said their own experience of the initiative had been positive and four out of five (82%) said they would like to see it continue.

There was also solid support for Ipswich Central from the head offices of national or regional firms represented in the town centre, with nearly three-quarters (74%) agreeing that the project was making a positive difference and nearly two-thirds (63%) saying they would like it to continue.

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The survey results were revealed last night at a “Building for the Future” event for businesses within the BID zone, held at DanceEast on the Ipswich Waterfront and hosted by Julie Grail, chief executive of the British BIDs organisation.

She said that town centres such as Ipswich would need to “re-invent” themselves, with retail investment increasingly being focused on larger developments in bigger centres, as well as on selling online.

Mid-sized towns would need to focus on their wider offer, recognising that visitors would look to supplement shopping with other activities, such as eating out, culture and entertainment.

Ipswich town centre had many strengths on which it could build, with the Waterfront a further asset even though it lay just outside the BID zone.

Mixed-use developments, attracted by footfall between the town centre and the Waterfront, were much more likely than investment in a major retail development in the town, added Dr Grail.

Other speakers at the event included Kevin Bolton of Ipswich-based creative agency Poulsen Selleck, who set out a vision of where Ipswich should aspire to be in 20 years’ time, Richard Turner, property surveyor for Ipswich Central, who suggested how this vision could be implemented, and Shaun Bailey of Ipswich marketing agency Jacob Bailey, who provided an analysis of the survey findings.

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, said: “Ipswich Central is entering a new and exciting phase of its development.

“We are passionate about improving the town centre in accordance with both national trends and the wishes of our stakeholders.

“Long-term planning is a key aspect of our strategy, and will ensure that Ipswich stays on course to achieve our ‘vision’.”

A ballot on extending the Ipswich BID for a second term is likely to be held in the autumn.

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