BID-ding for a better future
TRANSFORMING a town centre is the aim of a new scheme to be funded and run by businesses working in the area. A Business Improvement District (BID) plan to make Hitchin more shopper-friendly was launched by Hitchin Town Centre Initiative last week in ass
TRANSFORMING a town centre is the aim of a new scheme to be funded and run by businesses working in the area.
A Business Improvement District (BID) plan to make Hitchin more shopper-friendly was launched by Hitchin Town Centre Initiative last week in association with hundreds of businesses.
Town centre manager Keith Hoskins said: "It's about local businesses using their money to create a better environment for business, run by business people on a board elected by them. The money is ring-fenced for projects, so will only go on what they decide.
"Although it is primarily for promoting business, it obviously has knock-on benefits for the community as a whole.
"For the price of a cup of coffee, businesses can do something that benefits them and this is precisely the time that people should be banded together."
Proposals for the five-year plan include a dedicated police officer, street rangers to deal with anti-social behaviour, extra cleaners, a shopper's crèche, weekend taxi marshals, investment in the market, planting, public art, more CCTV cameras and a park and ride scheme.
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It is estimated £250,000 a year could be raised by businesses in the BID area paying the equivalent of two per cent of their yearly property tax into the scheme, or the equivalent of £2 a week for a small business. This charge could be collected free by North Herts District Council as part of support for business. This figure could be increased by £125,000 from grants from local and regional government.
Chamber of Commerce chairman Alan Doggett, who was at the launch, said: "There is a lot of support for this scheme, nobody is against it. It's really encouraging for the town centre.
"What it's going to do is give extras to the town. In this competitive world we need to have a vibrant town centre. The cost is fairly negligible and gives them control over services. Whatever money is generated will be spent on what businesses decide."
The extent of the BID boundary has yet to be defined but will include the streets around the historic centre.
The consultation process is ongoing and a final plan is expected to be voted on by businesses in October.
There are 74 BID schemes in operation in the UK. If successful, Hitchin would be the first in Hertfordshire.