An initiativethat could revitalise Chester’s declining city centre is being backed by the city’s leading businesses and stakeholders.
Primark, Boots, Marks and Spencer and the owners of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre are among the first to back the scheme that could potentially bring in millions of pounds to revamp the central area.
Along with Chester Racecourse and Chester Cathedral, they are founder members of a new private-sector group that will develop and deliver a campaign to secure Business Improvement District (BID) status for a still-to-be-defined area in the heart of the city.
The venture will embrace hundreds of businesses, including retailers, hotels and food and drink outlets.
Significant progress has already been made with the formation of the CH1 Chester BID Company.
The group, which is being led on an interim basis by independent business owner Paul Daniels, will follow in the footsteps of Liverpool and 170 other towns and cities across the UK where BID status has helped deliver tangible bottom-line benefits and improved sustainability.
All businesses involved are asked to vote on whether or not to pay a small levy on top of their business rates which will be pooled to provide a fund that can be allocated to a wide range of improvements, as agreed by the businesses themselves.
Mr Daniels explained: “It’s no secret that Chester’s city centre businesses are facing real challenges,”
“Over the last 15 years, the city has moved from being in the top 10 in the national league table of retail centres down to the mid 30s.
“As well as increasing competition from out-of-town development, businesses are being hard hit by a dramatic increase in on-line shopping.”
He added: “This is a real opportunity to help address those challenges, and partnership is the key.
“A BID in Chester will provide a really effective way of enabling our city-centre businesses to come together and agree how they want to improve their own trading environment. The decision-making will rest with them.
“It’s time to act, and a successful BID campaign by the CH1 Chester BID Company will deliver the change we need, not just to survive but to thrive.”
Independent owner of the Watergate St Art Gallery and CH1 BID Board member Alex Sharpe added: “In this day and age businesses cannot realistically expect the local council to fund all the ‘add ons’ we would like to see in Chester, such as dedicated Chester marketing campaigns, welcome hosts throughout the city and increases in seasonal activities.
“I hope many other business owners and managers share our commitment to this city and will also be prepared to give time and money to the BID.”
The CH1 Chester BID board members will be hosting the first of many information drop-in sessions in the Palatine Room of the Town Hall on Tuesday, October 8, between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.
All businesses are encouraged to go along and share their views and ideas.