BUSINESSES in Durham city centre have voted to take more control over their future by setting up a Business Improvement District (BID).
The BID, which will start in December in time for Christmas shopping, will see businesses and organisations working together spend more than £1.5m on improving the area to attract more shoppers over the next five years.
It will be financed through a 1.5% levy on business rates and is likely to include marketing the city centre as well as projects to ensure the area is more attractive.
Businesses have worked for more than two years on the plan, which was launched to help the city compete with larger shopping areas such as Newcastle city centre and the Metrocentre.
Richard Toynbee, chair of the BID Task Group, said: “This a fantastic result for all involved and allows Durham city centre to improve further over the next five years through the proposals detailed in our BID.
“It has been a long and tough two and half years work and I would like to thank all involved for their time and support in making a real difference to Durham’s future.”
Michelle Sheen, of the Warm Sanctuary flooring shop in Durham, was one of the independent businesses that voted “yes” and sat on the task group.
She said: “We are delighted that the hard work has paid off. The real work starts now though in delivering the new initiatives and the team aim to get started immediately in forming the new BID company and adding in the extra value to our town.
“We hope to see the first delivery of projects for the Christmas retail period.”
A similar BID in Newcastle was launched in 2009 and has been welcomed by traders for bringing in schemes such as Pocket Parks of Green Space and the Alive after Five project, which saw many shops open until 8pm several nights a week.
Ballot results for the Durham BID showed that 86% of all those who voted are in favour of the BID progressing. For the BID vote to go through a second trigger, majority by rateable value, was also required and this was achieved with 76% of those who voted.