Chichester Chamber of Commerce has given its full backing to the city’s drive to become a business improvement district (BID).
With two months remaining in the consultation process, the city centre management team at the heart of the project is busy individually consulting around 800 companies on the plans.
The scheme, which involves charging an additional one per cent in business rates (roughly equalling around £500 on average per firm), would bring a direct ring-fenced fund of more than £1m that could be spent on the city centre over the next five years.
This would include a dedicated marketing budget for the city, improvements to its street scene, plus funding towards Christmas lights each year – which caused a huge furore last year and major national media criticism when the city failed to secure funding for festive lighting.
Louise Fenwick, of Chichester Chamber of Commerce believed the scheme would offer a significant boost to a wide range of enterprises.
She said: “The most valuable thing about the BID is it will allow businesses to have their say on where money is spent on improvements.
“I think it will really give Chichester its chance to shine.
“If you take tourism as an example – this is presently supported by the local authority which is doing an excellent job, but being in a BID would enable even greater support for the many businesses in the city centre which are involved in the tourism industry.
“The council has been very supportive of companies within the city centre and we have been very lucky to enjoy and experience the work of Kim Long as its centre manager.
“It’s a role that has largely had a retail focus, but if there’s a BID in the city then there is a possibility the position of city centre manager can be expanded even further to include a broader commercial perspective for the city centre.
“We are completely behind the BID scheme and we are actively encouraging our chamber members to vote yes for it in October.”
Worthing has also adopted a BID zone operated under its Town Centre Initiative, which was responsible for securing the economy-boosting Birdman competition.
This netted the town an additional £1m of publicity as a direct result of the contest.
Businesses within the city walls in Chichester will be balloted throughout October on its scheme.
In order to be approved, more than 50 per cent of firms need to be in favour of approving the cost of the scheme.
If it is approved, it will come into being in April 2012.