The Business Improvement District (BID) process for the centre of Morpeth has moved a step further along, with a ballot due to take place next month.
BIDs are business-led partnerships created through a ballot process to deliver additional services to local businesses.
The Government states they can be a powerful tool for directly involving local businesses in local activities and allow the business community, local authorities and other key partners such as the police to work together to improve the local trading environment.
The desire to set up a BID in Morpeth was one of two further aspects to come out of the neighbourhood plan process, the other being the development of a masterplan for the town.
The aim is to create a town-centre BID focusing on the following themes: Cleaner, greener, safer and accessible; events and activities; marketing and promotion; infrastructure and business voice.
The projects would be funded by a compulsory BID levy of 1.4 per cente of the rateable value of all eligible premises, creating an income of around £121,000 per year over the five-year operating period.
A great deal of progress has already been made, with two launch/consultation events and workshops held in July last year.
During the autumn, the proposals were substantially revised based on the feedback and further consultation events culminated in a drop-in session on December 12 where the draft business plan was published.
The final point for businesses to have a say on the draft business plan was the Morpeth masterplanning event earlier this month.
At its meeting last Tuesday, the county council’s decision-making cabinet approved the Morpeth BID ballot proposals, which means it will now open on Thursday, March 8, and run to Monday, April 9.
However, the council will not vote in the ballot on the basis that the introduction of BID arrangements is for local businesses to decide.
Nonetheless, the local authority will support the BID if it is implemented following the vote.
Businesses that are subject to the levy vote in a ballot; a successful vote is one that has a simple majority both in votes cast and in rateable value of votes cast.
Subject to a successful ballot being announced, the Morpeth BID company would be established as a not-for-profit social enterprise company limited by guarantee this spring to operate from May 1, 2018, for a period of up to four years and 11 months.
A new voluntary board of directors would be established via an open and transparent appointment process, while the county council would establish the BID revenue account and issue bills to those businesses subject to the levy.