New scheme to boost town centre economy

WESTON could be put on the map as an invigorated shopping destination with a flourishing economy if town centre businesses back a new scheme.

Traders are being asked to support Weston Town Centre Partnership’s bid to become a Business Improvement District (BID).

The organisation is hoping to follow in the footsteps of more than 80 other towns and cities across the country, including Taunton and Broadmead in Bristol.

Business owners are collectively making a difference to shopping locations by injecting cash into the scheme and, in turn, boosting footfall.

Weston town centre businesses, which have a rateable value (RV) of more than �5,000, will be asked to pay 1.5 per cent of this amount annually during the five-year BID scheme.

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This annual figure of �273,000 could be used in whatever way business owners feel would benefit the town centre and improve its shopping vitality – from introducing a calendar of major events, paying for marketing to improving street cleaning, safety and security.

North Somerset Council and Weston Town Council have already shown support for the scheme by giving �20,000 and �10,000 respectively to the partnership to fund BID consultants.

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Town centre manager Steve Townsend, who is spearheading the campaign, told the Mercury: “Weston could become a sad place and a dirty town if we don’t do something soon.

“We have significantly less funding coming from central government and the local authority has little or no funding to do extra street cleaning, extra marketing and organising events.

“Now the pier is open and the sea front works are all but finished I think this is the time to think about the future.”

Steve is recruiting a team of ambassadors who will join him in raising awareness of the scheme, and he is hoping to arrange a meeting with traders before Easter.

They will be consulted over the summer about ways to use the money to improve the economy and a working party, made up of trading representatives from different areas within the town centre, will be set up to produce a business plan.

Businesses will then go to ballot in 2012.

Weston’s BID will only go ahead if more than half of the 570 eligible traders vote in favour of it and this is made up of at least 51 per cent of the businesses’ combined rateable value.

If approved, any traders which voted against the scheme will still have to pay into it.

Businesses in the area which have an RV below �5,000 can make annual voluntary donations of �75, and, along with traders which pay a mandatory sum, will benefit from extra specialist business and financial advice funded through the scheme.

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