COMPANIES in Chichester have just over a week left to decide on a vital million-pound cash injection for the city centre.
The Business Improvement District (BID) initiative being put forward by the city centre partnership has so far attracted a broad base of support.
From small independent retailers to major chain stores, the plans, which involve raising business rates for firms within the city walls by 1 percent to deliver a ring-fenced fund for specific area improvements, have been gaining momentum over the past few months.
As the city and district councils added their voice to the YES campaign, the Observer has joined those seeking to make a difference in supporting the scheme.
However, it has not met with universal approval, with concerns being expressed over a new body effectively being created to run the scheme and added costs to businesses.
The deadline of Monday, October 31 is fast approaching for the postal ballot on the issue, with more than 700 firms being canvassed on whether to back the BID.
More than 50 percent of companies need to be in support of the scheme for it to go ahead.
If the five year plan gained approval, there would be set funds for improving city marketing and promotion additional street cleaning and security measures, plus retention of a city centre manager.
There would also be a dedicated fund for Christmas lights- which are seen as vital by the business community for creating an attractive shopping environment.
Andrew Finnamore, chairman of the city centre partnership at the centre of the BID, has spelt out its long-term value to the city. He believed that creating a targeted revenue-stream through this initiative would help Chichester compete with surrounding towns and cities.
Existing schemes in Winchester and Worthing have both proved successful with attracting investment and boosting the profile of the respective locations.
With the county council making multi-million pound cuts within the next few years, failure to take up the initiative could potentially have a major impact on the city.
But those behind the project have had to work hard to progress it.
The original aim was to approach each business within the city, but the eventual total was around two thirds of firms being individually consulted.
One of the most notable exceptions has been Chichester Gate. Despite all firms being consistently contacted on behalf of the city centre partnership, 50 percent its businesses were unable to offer a decision leading to a decision not to include it within the BID zone. Only one company, Frankie and Bennies was willing to confirm its willingness to participate in the scheme.
For more information on the five year BID scheme and how it is intended to operate visit www.chichesterbid.co.uk/