Businesses urged to vote yes for a better Norwich

PUBLISHED: 07:35 11 July 2012 | UPDATED: 17:28 11 July 2012

Launch event of the Norwich Business Improvement District at Aviva's Headquarters in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Launch event of the Norwich Business Improvement District at Aviva's Headquarters in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

More city centre festivals, innovative ideas to attract tourists and a mobile phone application shouting about Norwich’s attractions – these are just three of the initiatives which could help promote our city if bosses vote ‘yes’ to a Business Improvement District.

Voting has begun over whether companies in the city centre want Norwich to set up a BID, with the polls closing at the end of this month.

And promoting the city is one of four projects identified as a priority if such a district, known as a BID, is set up, following initial talks with firms.

The BID concept, which has proved successful in many other towns and cities, is that businesses pay a one per cent levy on the rateable value of their business, which goes into a pot.

That pot would raise £3m over the five-year lifetime of the BID, with £660,153 raised each year from the 1pc levy on 670 companies in the area.

That money would be divided into four main projects: promoting our fine city; the Norwich experience; a greener cleaner Norwich; and a stronger voice.

And supporters today explained just how Norwich could be given a huge profile boost, by spending some of the £235,000 earmarked each year to promote the city.

Stefan Gurney, project manager for the BID, said: “With what we have to offer, Norwich should be a nationally recognised brand. In terms of the heritage we have, we should be recognised like Bath and York are, while in retail terms – while we are in the top 10 of shopping destinations – we should be above Brighton, who are eighth.

“From talking to companies, they are clear they want to raise the profile of Norwich in terms of commercial, retail and heritage.”

Mr Gurney said businesses might choose to use the money to unlock other funding for major national television campaigns or for posters on the London tube network or at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, for instance.

But he said: “They are the high-level, strategic possibilities, but businesses will want to see something down on the ground.”

And that’s where a mobile phone application could come in, to let visitors to Norwich know exactly what is going on and where to shop, eat, drink and areas of historic or cultural interest.

Mr Gurney said: “People could use a mobile phone app to see what events are on or to look up where they can go to shop, for instance, if they want to find clothes in a boutique shop or in one of the bigger stores.

“At the moment you’ve got all the businesses doing their own thing, but if you could bring all that together it would provide a comprehensive service.”

Another idea is to bring businesses together through seasonal campaigns, which could be particularly helpful in getting people into the city at traditionally quieter times, while also pulling together the festivals Norwich already plays host to.

Mr Gurney said: “We already have fantastic things such as the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Food Festival, Norwich Fashion Week and the City of Ale and we wouldn’t be looking to re-invent those.

“But what businesses have said is that we could be promoting Norwich as a city of festivals. We could build on those and make sure they all link into each other, so people who go to one know what the next festival is going to happen.

“We’ve also been looking at the idea of having some sort of river festival and at further developing the NORWICHRISTMAS event.”

The BID would also look to give specific parts of Norwich their own identities. That has already happened in the Norwich Lanes and the Cathedral Quarter, but places such as Timber Hill and London Street could follow suit.

A fund would be created to establish new areas or streets with their own distinctive attributes, which could be used to enhance the existing streetscape and ensure it stands out to new businesses, shoppers and tourists, as well as the local community.

Mr Gurney said: “Our idea is to create Norwich Neighbourhood Champions.

“That’s very much about areas that have some fantastic shops and businesses which want to work together, but don’t really have the opportunity to do so.

“We have been talking to people in areas such as Timber Hill and London Street about how we can give those areas specific identities and make finance available which they could dip into if they wanted to organise specific things.”

Phil Cutter, owner of The Murderers pub in Timber Hill, said: “There’s a lot of areas in Norwich which are really little districts, with independent businesses in them.

“The bigger boys have their own marketing budgets, but for smaller businesses like ours, we just don’t have that. But, by all working together we can create a pot of money which can be used to champion our neighbourhoods and promote our smaller businesses.

“It benefits the whole city. You have got to spend a little bit of money, even in these difficult times, because you could sit and wait for the economy to pick up, but be waiting for a long time.

“You can either give up or die trying and I know what I would rather do.”

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