Thumbs up for idea to improve Norwich city centre
An ambitious bid which would see businesses and organisations in Norwich join forces to help generate cash to improve the city centre is gathering traction.
As reported in the Evening News, a questionnaire has been sent to more than 1,000 businesses asking them to have their say on how the city centre could become a better place for shoppers, tourists and workers.
As part of that questionnaire, businesses and organisations have been asked whether they would support the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in the city centre.
Businesses in that district would contribute an amount based on their rateable value - probably 1pc - which would go into a pot which could be used to make improvements.
But before a BID can get off the ground, it has to get at least 50pc of votes in both votes cast and rateable value of votes cast – which protects the interests of both small and large organisations.
If a Norwich BID is set up, it would be up to a board, made up of business bosses, to decide how to spend the money, which could be about �600,000 a year – and even more if other funding streams can be unlocked.
Depending on what businesses want, money could be used for a projects, such as making the city centre safer and cleaner, extra promotion of what Norwich has to offer or a series of new festivals and events.
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Bigger businesses, such as the Chapelfield Shopping Centre and Jarrold's have already backed the idea and smaller businesses and organisations in the city today said they could also see the merit of being involved.
Roger Pemberton, chairman of Norwich Lanes, which includes many smaller, independent shops, said it was an idea worth exploring.
He said: 'As chairman of Norwich Lanes I sit on the Norwich City Centre Partnership and I support the the application because it sounds like something Norwich should be part of.
'From the perspective of the Lanes, a number of the businesses might not be in the BID area itself and it's a decision which has to made by our members.
'But I certainly believe that the Norwich City Centre Partnership is doing this for the benefit of Norwich and it's better to be part of it rather than sitting on the sidelines.' Maria Whitbread, who runs Inkbox in White Lion Street, said: 'As long as the fee is fair, and it looks like it would be, then I'm pretty positive about it. 'The bigger businesses will put a larger amount in and that seems fair to me. It's then a case of how the money is spent to benefit everyone.
'For me, I think it has to be about marketing and events. That's what is needed more than anything else to get people into the city.'
Improvements needed, according to readers who have commented on the Evening News website, are for better night-time buses, better parking and a concert hall.
• For more information on how Norwich could get a business improvement district, visit www.norwichbid.co.uk
• What would you like to see done to improve Norwich? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org