Businesses are being given chance to shape their own destiny

Businesses are being given the chance to shape their own destiny as the town enters a time of massive change.

This summer, Northwich traders and business owners will vote on whether to become west Cheshire’s first town centre Business Improvement District (BID).

This would allow them to raise between £500,000 and £1million during a five-year period, which would be ringfenced for Northwich and the businesses would decide how it is spent.

The emphasis is on funding ‘extras’ to improve the area, whether that is a marketing strategy, festivals and events or a better class of signage.

Jane Hough, from Groundwork Cheshire, which is supporting Northwich to develop the BID, said: “Basically it’s the business community that decides how money should be spent.  The BID is not allowed to backfill for public sector services, it’s about adding value to what’s already there.”

If businesses vote to set up a BID, all owners in a set geographical area will pay an extra levy of one or two per cent of their business rates, which will realise the funds.

Months of preparation have already gone into the BID, with an 11-strong steering group formed of representatives from Northwich’s national chain stores, independent shops and companies.

Its main task has been to consult with business owners on their town centre-related issues and draw up a draft five-year business plan.

Feedback from this will help form the BID proposal, which is expected to go to the vote in May.

Jane was keen to point out that the BID should not be confused with the Northwich Neighbourhood Plan, which is being drawn up by the wider community and has a greater say on how land should be used or protected.

“The neighbourhood plan is an overall strategic plan and the BID runs parallel and feeds into it,” she said.

If it goes ahead the BID would also help Northwich work as a unit when the regeneration of Barons Quay takes place.

Jane said: “It will work in partnership with Barons Quay so that it’s not an ‘us and them’.

“We want the town to be prepared for the regeneration so that it works and flows together – the businesses recognise that.  We’ve got some significant regeneration projects in Northwich and the traders want to work with that.”

Taken from the Northwich Guardian 12 February 2014