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Bosses hail £3m boost for Norwich city centre

City centre manager Stefan Gurney(front) and business representatives(l to r) Nick Bond from Visit Norwich, Steve Falvey of The Forum Trust, Stacey Rodgers and Jenny Bradfield from the Leeds Building Society and Dawn Brindle from the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo by Simon Finlay

City centre manager Stefan Gurney(front) and business representatives(l to r) Nick Bond from Visit Norwich, Steve Falvey of The Forum Trust, Stacey Rodgers and Jenny Bradfield from the Leeds Building Society and Dawn Brindle from the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo by Simon Finlay

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A new scheme which will raise £3m to be spent in the city centre has been hailed by business bosses as providing a vital shot in the arm for Norwich during tough economic times.

Business yesterday voted yes for a Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), which will see them pay money into a pot which they can then choose how to use.

The creation of the district - taking in the majority of Norwich city centre - will see millions raised over the next five years through an annual one per cent levy on businesses with a rateable value of more than £15,000 within the BID area.

And the £3m which will be generated over the initial five year lifetime of the district could be spent on improvements such as: • A team of city hosts to welcome people to Norwich

• A mobile phone application promoting the city

• More city centre events and festivals

• Collaborative buying power to help business save money

• Better marketing to woo more tourists to the city

Of the businesses who voted in yesterday’s ballot at City Hall, 79pc by number and 91pc by rateable value voted yes, which means the district can be created.

Just over 660 businesses were eligible to vote and there was a turnout of just under 31pc.

A board will now be set up to decide how to spend the money, but good times beckon for the city centre, according to those who backed the bid for a BID.

Peter Mitchell, chairman of Norwich BID and group managing director at Jarrold’s, said: “The support and yes votes have turned this exciting opportunity into a reality for Norwich.

“Although it is a tough economic climate, Norwich businesses have voted to spend £3m on initiatives that will make a real difference to the vitality of the city centre.

“A big ‘thank you’ to all the local businesses that worked tirelessly to make this a success. The yes vote will allow our local businesses to take ownership and deliver more success for our city centre.”

The project has been in the pipeline for more than 12 months after it was first mooted with a questionnaire to businesses back in July last year.

Stefan Gurney, city centre partnership manager, was delighted at the yes vote, which he described as “an excellent result”.

He said the next steps would see planning and preparation work over the next three months, with Norwich BID being set-up as a company limited by guarantee and up and running by November.

Others who have backed the BID have said it will give businesses of all sizes a united voice to bring improvements to the city.

Davina Tanner, general manager of Chapelfield Shopping Centre, said “Chapelfield is pleased to support the Norwich BID, we believe this initiative will enable Norwich to further cement its position as one of the top visitor and shopping destinations in the UK.”

Richard Marks, general manager of John Lewis in Norwich, said “Visitors to Norwich are always blown away by what the city has to offer – a BID will reinforce and build on Norwich’s tremendous success at a time of so much economic uncertainty and will promote the city to a much wider audience.”

Chris Frazer, director of property and financial services at Aviva, said “Aviva believes Norwich BID will play a critical role in accelerating Norwich’s commercial success, making it a more dynamic and vibrant place to be in business.

“The Norwich BID will raise the city’s profile, attracting new commercial sectors, inward investment and skilled workers into the city. “A BID will also help improve the local infrastructure, transport links and services that are critical to attracting outside investment. In short, the Norwich BID will give local businesses greater control to ensure their future on-going success.”

And Jayne Raffles, owner of Raffles restaurants, which includes St Benedicts Restaurant and The Library, said “As a group of independent restaurants in Norwich, which is passionate about sustainable investment, we believe the Norwich BID can only be a win-win situation for Norwich in these economic times, to benefit businesses, residents and shoppers in our fine city.”

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