Traders in the proposed Morpeth Business Improvement District (BID) area will have the chance to say yes or no to it from early March.
If the initiative gets the required votes, a limited company will be set-up and it will be run by representatives of the businesses themselves.
BIDs make collective investments in local improvements and activities over and above those provided by statutory authorities and local councils.
They are funded by a compulsory levy and the Morpeth proposal is for the levy to be 1.4 per cent of a business’ ratable value, paid annually.
This would raise an estimated £565,000 over the five-year period to invest in Morpeth town centre – the BID area goes from the top of Newgate Street in the north to Morpeth Railway Station in the south and from the riverside at High Stanners in the west to Low Stanners in the east.
Voting papers will be issued to every eligible person/company name located in the BID area from the start of March and the ballot will be open from Thursday, March 8, until Monday, April 9.
A new group is being set-up to campaign for the establishment of a BID in Morpeth. Some traders have come together to run a No to the BID campaign, which believes that any arrangement should be voluntary.
Coun John Beynon, who will be part of the group campaigning in favour, said: “The final business plan has been changed following our consultations and it is based on what traders in the Morpeth BID area wanted.
“The ideas for potential projects, activities and events that have been set-out in the document, including estimated costings, are the top suggestions from the live poll of business representatives who attended the events in October.
“But it would be the BID area businesses themselves that would decide how the money is spent and when you consider that the Chamber of Trade raises about £10,000 annually from its events that is then spent on the town, just think what we could do with more than 10 times that amount each year.”
He added that there have been expressions of interest from independent and national businesses outside the BID area at making a voluntary contribution if it is established.
An alternative arrangement proposed by the No to the BID campaign would see businesses invited to make a voluntary, flat rate payment of £80, with additional funds possible through public contribution collected via a range of activities in the town such as bag packing in Morrisons.
The latest position statement by the Morpeth BID Steering Board included the following: ‘This arrangement has been considered and discussed by the BID Steering Board and Morpeth Town Team and we do not believe that it is a viable solution to provide the overall improvements businesses in the town have said they need.’
‘Fundamentally, we believe the prospectus and business plan reflects the best possible proposal we can achieve given the size of the boundary and the proposed financial model.
‘Whilst we are very disappointed at the negative campaign, we genuinely appreciate the efforts that have been made by the campaign to assist in making all the businesses in Morpeth aware of the proposals.
‘We have always said that Morpeth is a great town and has performed exceptionally well against a backdrop of failing towns throughout the UK.
‘However, it’s clear, from the discussions and events we have held over the last seven months, businesses recognise that more needs to be done to create a more attractive town and to drive greater footfall, spend and dwell time.
‘To conclude, the BID Steering Board has steered the development of the BID proposal objectively and dispassionately, listening to views of businesses and changing the BID proposal to reflect those views.
‘We believe we have followed the mandate of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan, which was to formally test the appetite for a BID.
‘We also feel that we have done everything we can to ensure that there are no businesses in the proposed BID area that do not know about the proposals.’
If the ballot is successful, the BID will commence on May 1.