Top retailer backs Ipswich BID

STUART Rose, the man credited with reviving the fortunes of high street giant Marks & Spencer, has given his personal backing to plans to create a Business Improvement District in Ipswich.

STUART Rose, the man credited with reviving the fortunes of high street giant Marks & Spencer, has given his personal backing to plans to create a Business Improvement District in Ipswich.

Mr Rose, currently the biggest name in UK retailing after transforming the performance of M&S since his appointment as chief executive two years ago, says he believes the BID proposals will benefit both customers and staff at the Ipswich store, which is currently undergoing refurbishment.

His support for the BID comes on the day that the proposals are put out for approval in a ballot of business ratepayers in the town centre area to be covered by scheme.

A BID involves a package of additional measures designed to improved the trading environment which is funded by a supplementary rate, which becomes compulsory for all business ratepayers within the area provided a majority of them support the scheme in a ballot.

The Ipswich BID aims to raise a total of £3.2million over a five year period, through a 1.2% supplementary rate, which would be used to fund schemes including street rangers to assist in reducing crime, a fast-response cleaning contract to tackle graffiti, a series of annual marketing and promotional initiatives including free parking and free park-and-ride days, and a campaign to attract more major retailers to the town.

Mr Rose, who has a home near Woodbridge and is known to shop at the Ipswich branch of Marks & Spencer on a regular basis, said in a statement: “I'm backing the BID for Ipswich.

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“I believe it will bring benefits to the customers and staff of M&S in Ipswich as well as the wider retail community.”

News of his support was enthusiastically welcomed by Paul Clement, who is head of the Ipswich Partnership town centre management body and who had been responsible for formulating and promoting the Ipswich BID proposal.

“This has been a long journey,” said Mr Clement, speaking on the eve of the ballot which remains open for votes for four weeks.

“The idea to create a BID in Ipswich was born two years ago as we watched the Government pass legislation that would dramatically alter the way in which town centre management was delivered in this country. I knew at the time it was an opportunity for Ipswich to lead the way and that we had to seize that chance.”

If successful, Ipswich will become only the 30th BID location in the UK, joining market leaders such as Manchester, Liverpool, central London, Birmingham and Reading. In one BID location, Plymouth, a recent survey of businesses paying the levy one year after their ballot suggested significantly wider support even than existed at the time of the vote.

“Towns and cities that have created BIDs already have seen dramatic improvements in the standard of services, leading to more customers who are more willing to spend more money and, crucially, prepared to consider working in those centres,” said Mr Clement.

“From the huge amount of research that we have conducted over the past two years, taking in business leaders, their staff, customers and potential new customers, I know that the plans that the BID offers are exactly what Ipswich needs.

“If the vote goes in our favour, it will trigger improved performance and profitability for the businesses involved.”

A total of 698 businesses are due to receive their ballot papers today and they have until 5pm on Monday, July 24 to register their vote. The result should known by the end of July and the additional services would start next April.

Mr Clement said: “I am convinced that we have produced the right plan to massively improve Ipswich town centre forward over the next five years. We have worked tremendously hard to get as much support for this project as possible and to promote its benefits.

“But, now, it is all down to the vote and, quite rightly, the businesses that will be part of the BID have the final say. I can only sit back now and hope that a majority believe in their town centre enough to make this happen.”

However, he added: “Up and down the country, BIDs are creating the most sought after locations for both customers and new businesses, particularly retailers - just look at the line-up of places that are already ahead of us, they understand the massive benefits available here.

“We have one chance to join an elite pack of 30 and what an achievement that would be. If, however, we reject that chance, the repercussions for the town, particularly through the signal that a 'no' vote would send, would be devastating.

“Some 200 other locations are now actively looking at the concept, Colchester and Norwich amongst them - BIDs are the way forward for urban centres. I just hope that we have done enough to persuade sufficient businesses that our plan is right for their town centre and that Ipswich must now lead rather then fall behind the rest.”

n For more information on the Ipswich BID, visit www.voteipswich.com