Street Rangers heading for town?

STREET Rangers to assist businesses and the police in the battle against crime are among a string of initiatives unveiled yesterday in plans for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Ipswich.

STREET Rangers to assist businesses and the police in the battle against crime are among a string of initiatives unveiled yesterday in plans for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Ipswich.

The BID project aims to raise £3.2million over the next five years to fund a range of schemes designed to improve Ipswich town centre as a place to shop, to work, to spend leisure time - and to do business.

Subject to approval by a majority of business ratepayers, the money will be raised through a supplementary rate of 1.2% on the rateable value of business property within the BID zone - and a campaign is now underway to persuade businesses to vote in favour.

The proposals have been drawn up following a consultation process involving businesses, employees and shoppers in the town centre and a sample of people from further afield who do not currently visit Ipswich.

Street Rangers acting as the “eyes and ears” of businesses will be supported by crime monitors in the BID office and a new radio system to link businesses with the police.

Other measures include additional cleaning to address issues such as graffiti and fly posting, car parking and park-and-ride promotions, a marketing budget for regular seasonal campaigns, lighting and planting schemes to improve the town centre environment and a project team to work on attracting large-scale capital investment schemes.

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Paul Clement, director of the Ipswich BID company, said: “The exhaustive research we have undertaken supports our initial instinct that there is support for a BID in Ipswich, but we are conscious that it is not enough and we have to win over many more business leaders if we are to be successful.”

Some 700 businesses are eligible to vote in the BID zone, which covers the area from Suffolk College and to Ipswich Town Football Club and from Crown Street to the Waterfront.

The voting period will run from June 27 to July 24 and, for the BID to be approved, it requires the support both of a simple majority of businesses voting and of businesses representing a majority in terms of rateable value.

Among those to have pledged support are Axa Insurance, which employs around 1,300 at its offices in Civic Drive. Andy Fairchild, customer operations director, said: “The BID will help us attract and retain high quality staff, safeguarding our future in what will be a thriving location. My message to all businesses is to back the BID and 'Vote Ipswich'.”

Also backing the BID is Shaun Bailey, managing director of design agency Jacob Bailey, who said: “The BID is extremely important to all businesses both in and around Ipswich, if we are to continue to make it a better place to live and work.

“Even through Jacob Bailey is located just outside the BID area, we have decided to contribute voluntarily and take the lead by sponsoring the Vote Ipswich campaign.”

Ipswich Borough Council is also fully supporting the BID and will contribute assistance worth around £70,000 a year if the project gets the go-ahead.

“We are supporting the campaign as it is good for business and good for residents,” said Richard Atkins, portfolio holder for economic development. “We call on the private sector to vote 'yes' in order to cement the town's position as a strong regional retail and business centre.”

Alistair Lang, chairman of the Ipswich BID company, added: “These ambitious, practical projects collectively will propel Ipswich into a premier league of towns and cities in the country. My plea to businesses is not to waste the chance we have to guarantee a brighter future for our town centre.”