BUSINESSES in Exeter will again vote on whether to create a Business Improvement District in the city centre.
The scheme would see city centre firms paying an annual levy to fund projects to improve the trading environment.
The BID campaign is to be launched on April 30 at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.
And if businesses and retailers vote in favour, it would raise £500,000 each year for five years. A previous campaign in July 2011 to create a BID was unsuccessful. The cost of the preparatory work and ballot to the City Council in 2011 was £15,150, which was paid out of the Economic Development Budget.
The number of businesses who voted against the scheme was marginally more than those who voted against it. A total of 740 business rate payers in the city centre had one vote each. Out of the 372 votes cast, 180, or 48.4 per cent, voted in favour of the BID.
At the time Roger Panter, who owns Panters linen and hardware store which has been in situ on Sidwell Street since 1894 and voted against the BID siad. "In Sidwell Street, we've been on about needing improvements to the paving and the poorly done market for years but nothing's been done.
"But then John Lewis, who I'm all for, comes along and the council can find £2 million for the area, but they couldn't find it for traders like me with businesses that have been around for over 100 years.
"So one fear was that the money from the BID wouldn't go to Sidwell Street but other areas of the city.
"We've also seen our business rates rise by 40 per cent over the last two years. The extra 1.5 per cent for the BID levy equates to £720, but there's only so much you can afford."
However Karime Hassan, chief executive of Exeter City Council, believes a BID would help protect city businesses from competition by ensuring that it remains “vibrant”.
Mr Hassan said: “Exeter city centre has gone from strength to strength in recent years, but it is not immune to competition, changing trends or economic challenges.
“A business improvement district would allow the city centre businesses to raise funding and direct investment to maintain an attractive environment and ensure the city centre is as vibrant as we know it can be, a place visitors will want to visit and have more reasons to stay longer.”
Mattie Richardson, owner of Bunyip Beads & Buttons, an independent retailer in Fore Street, said: “The BID is a positive thing for the city and it is important that residents are aware of that.
“As an independent retailer I am particularly hoping the BID will go through because our city centre needs improvement from the pavement up.
“A BID would help provide resources and support for many vibrant projects that could really put Exeter on the map.”
Larger retailers such as John Lewis are backing the BID.
Kate Connock, manager at John Lewis Exeter, said: “It is very exciting to be part of this city, with its vision and ambition to grow and keep competing. We know that customer expectations and uses of city centres have changed and that is set to continue over the coming years.
“Securing a BID in Exeter will give the elected team the funds to grow Exeter’s impact both as a retail destination and a leisure destination, being relevant now and in the future.”
Local McDonald’s franchisee, David Shawyer, chairman of the City Centre Partnership, said: “The Exeter BID has the real potential to transform the city for everyone who works, lives or visits here, by delivering a number of improvements that simply could not be achieved without it.
“The truly exciting aspect is that this can be realised through diverse local businesses like mine working together in conjunction with the city council, Devon and Cornwall Police and other relevant public agencies and associations.”
The Exeter BID will go to ballot early next year.
Have you say. Although city centre business can vote on the bid, we want to know what you think – Should Exeter say yes to the BID? Vote below: