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Launch event of the Norwich Business Improvement District at Aviva's Headquarters in Norwich. Chair of Norwich BID Peter Mitchell, front with business representatives from the city centre.Photo: Steve Adams
Friday, July 13, 2012
Business bosses hope they can impress visitors and tourists by creating a lasting image of Norwich as a vibrant, clean city.
Around £3m will be available to spend over five years to improve Norwich city centre if companies vote ‘yes’ to create a business improvement district (BID).
Voting is ongoing, with 670 firms within the city centre area having their say on the idea before polls close at the end of the month.
If successful, the cash will be raised by a 1pc levy on the businesses in the BID area, which would generate £660,153 each year.
This money will be split among four categories, including £65,000-a-year on making Norwich a “greener, cleaner city”.
Officials behind the BID said businesses told them they want to make Norwich “one of the UK’s leading working and shopping environments” by making it a more sustainable city.
Ideas including helping traders better organise the collection of their waste and recycling.
It is hoped this will make it a cheaper service if the businesses work as a group rather than organising collections on an individual basis.
In turn, this type of simpler service could mean fewer collection lorries trundling around the city, which could ease congestion and reduce carbon dioxide emissions being pumped out by vehicles.
Norwich City Council currently provides waste and recycling services for households while businesses make their own commercial arrangements.
Stefan Gurney, project manager for the BID, said: “The big project we are looking at for a greener, cleaner city is very much about waste and recycling in the city centre. A lot of businesses have said that’s an area they think can have a real impact in their trading and profitability.
“If you take recycling out of general waste then it doesn’t go to landfill, it takes less transport movements in and around the city and is another positive because there’s less carbon dioxide emissions and less congestion in the streets. There’s a lot of multiple wins for businesses.
“If you increase recycling, you reduce what goes into general waste and that means they will pay less to waste providers.”
Mr Gurney said reducing the number of lorries collecting waste could make it easier for shoppers and workers to get into the city, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions could create a nicer environment for visitors to enjoy.
The initial plan is to test the new rubbish collection system by using 20 businesses in a pilot project.
Mr Gurney said this would show the value and savings of firms joining together to share a service.
He said: “We have 20 businesses signed-up and who have completed the surveys to see what their waste is and who is providing what service.
“It’s amazing. There are nine different providers in just 20 businesses. You start to see there’s a real opportunity of working together.”
Claire Stephenson, Green Party group leader at the city council, said she was pleased to hear traders could soon develop new ways of collecting recycling from the city centre.
She said: “I really wish the city council was in a position to provide recycling provisions for businesses but it’s really good businesses are thinking of doing it themselves, getting together and working together.
“It seems that particular aspect is really filling a hole.
“I hope it does happen as there’s a real need and that need has come out in the business survey we have done.”
Miss Stephenson added: “There’s so much cardboard for businesses and packaging and a lot of that is recyclable.
“We can just see our society is not working in quite the right way when it’s not easy for businesses to recycle stuff that’s usually recyclable.
“It would benefit everybody, not just businesses as it would make the city a better place to be.”
Furthermore, the BID’s greener, cleaner ambitions include sprucing up the city’s street scene. This includes trying to ensure there are fewer empty shop units, removing graffiti quicker and tackling fly-posting.
Mr Gurney said: “The BID will be looking to see we work with local authorities and businesses to have them cleaned quickly and so when you down the street it looks vibrant and hopefully that will get more businesses into it.”
More art campaigns will also be considered among the projects to try and give visitors a better impression of the city.
Mr Gurney said: “It helps to have a positive impact on people’s images of the city as you will get return business and it helps reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.”
Jane Claridge, general manager at Norwich Theatre Royal, is among those backing the BID.
She said: “In an increasingly competitive economic climate, pooling our resources through the business improvement district will benefit Norwich businesses, residents and visitors.
“It will make the most of Norwich’s retail, leisure and heritage and culture by promoting assets to a wider audience, and help drive continuing growth across the city centre and beyond.”
See tomorrow’s Norwich Evening News to find out how a BID could give Norwich a stronger voice.