Traders reject business improvement plan

PLANS for a multi-million package of measures to boost business in the centre of Colchester have been rejected by the town's traders. The Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) scheme would have seen nearly £4million raised through a supplementary business rate over the next five years to make the town centre more attractive to shoppers and visitors.

PLANS for a multi-million package of measures to boost business in the centre of Colchester have been rejected by the town's traders.

The Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) scheme would have seen nearly £4million raised through a supplementary business rate over the next five years to make the town centre more attractive to shoppers and visitors.

But a ballot of business ratepayers - in which the BID required support representing a majority of both those voting and the floorspace involved - saw the proposal overwhelmingly rejected.

The Colchester Town Partnership, which put together the proposal, indicated yesterday it would now take soundings to assess whether a revised package of measures might win support.


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But the Colchester Retail Association, which had urged businesses to say “No”, described the result as a “vote of no confidence” in Colchester's town centre management and said the outcome should become a catalyst for change before any re-ballot was considered.

The proposal was rejected by 70% of the businesses which voted - the most comprehensive “No” vote suffered by any BID scheme in the country. The firms opposing the scheme also represented a narrower majority - 57% - in terms of floorspace.

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Chris Kirvan, Colchester BID manager, said: “A number of prominent business leaders in the town have been working extremely hard over the past two years to bring this project to Colchester. It is a big disappointment for us and a big missed opportunity for the town. We are now considering our options and analyzing the result.”

Don Henshall, Colchester Borough Council's portfolio holder for business, added: “This was an opportunity for Colchester's businesses to unite to provide significant benefits for the town. The fact they have decided not to vote in favour of the Colchester BID and the chance to help make real improvements to the town centre is extremely disappointing.”

However, Simon Taylor, chair of the Colchester Retail Association, said: “We are hugely relieved that Colchester businesses have overwhelmingly decided to reject the Colchester Town Partnership's flawed BID proposal.

“This is a devastating vote of no confidence in Colchester's town centre management over the last few years, which has been the responsibility of the council-funded CTP.”

Mr Taylor said that while the CTP might be tempted adopt a “knee-jerk” reaction and conduct a re-ballot, the association would urge against this it would result in a yet bigger “No” vote and a further waste of money.

However, Mr Taylor added: “We have never seen this result as an end in itself, but as a catalyst for positive change in the way that Colchester town centre is managed. Our incomes are directly dependent on the amount of money spent by customers coming through our shop doors, so our interest in the success of the town centre could not be more real.

“The retail association would, therefore, welcome the opportunity to sit down with Colchester Borough Council to discuss the future and how we can work together towards our common goal of making our town a prestigious regional centre.”

There are currently 57 BIDs in operation across the UK, including three in the East of England, in Ipswich, Bedford and Great Yarmouth. Colchester, which would have been the first town centre BID for Essex, joins a list of 10 schemes to be rejected.

The Ipswich Central BID, involving additional cleaning teams, street rangers, free parking promotions and seasonal marketing campaigns, has just received a positive audit of its performance so far.

Paul Clement, head of the Ipswich Central BID, said: “This is a bad day for Colchester. However, the Ipswich BID is already well established after only eight months and achieving good results.”

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