Voting underway on Ripon's £800,000 Business Improvement District
The crucial ballot to decide the future of Ripon's proposed £800,000 Business Improvement District (BID) is underway.
More than 280 businesses have until next Thursday to vote on whether they wish to pay an annual levy to fund projects to create a safer, cleaner and better promoted city centre over the next five years.
A group of city leaders have been working on the plans since 2019 and will generate £800,000 in funding over five years if they win the backing of businesses through the ballot.
They have already won the support of Harrogate Borough Council which has agreed to lend £20,000 for start-up costs and will contribute around £30,000 over the five year period if the BID goes ahead.
Speaking at a meeting last night, councillor Graham Swift, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, enterprise and economic development at the council, said: "This council strongly supports the creation of Business Improvement Districts - these have been extremely successful throughout the United Kingdom.
"As a Conservative, I'm pro-self-determination and this enables the people of Ripon to generate funds for themselves for the things they think are critical for their businesses.
"I'm confident that with the right plans and actions this will go a long way to playing an important part of the whole regeneration programme that is taking place in Ripon."
For the BID to succeed, a simple majority of those who vote, representing more than half the total rateable value of all the properties, must be in favour.
Abacus Smarter Accountants, Specsavers, Office Ally, G Craggs Ltd and Sterne Properties are among those who have already expressed strong support, as well as other organisations including Ripon Community House, Ripon Museums Trust and Ripon City Council.
The ballot will close on 3 June and the results will be announced shortly afterwards.
If the BID goes ahead, a limited company will be set up with 10 directors drawn from the business community to manage the funds.
A business plan was launched earlier this year and set out the BID's top priorities including street cleansing and maintenance, festivals and events, car parking, toilets, landscaping and tourism.
In a statement included in the plan, Richard Compton, chairman of Ripon BID and owner of Newby Hall, said: "I believe Ripon can emerge strongly from the huge challenges presented by the Covid pandemic. Our unique local retail and leisure businesses have weathered much of the storm finding new ways of working and collaborating.
"We have so much to offer and as we perhaps see the light at the end of the tunnel, all of the city’s businesses need a plan to boost the place, for the benefit of all those who shop, live, work and visit our stunning city.
"The BID will re-invest in the priorities that matter locally, appreciating that Ripon is the gateway to the Dales, with tourists an important element of the business mix.
"The business plan has been crafted to capture the essence of Ripon and address issues that businesses have told us need attention.
"We need to drive footfall into our shops, restaurants, bars, museums and attractions – both in the city centre and the outer areas.
"We are on the point of making Ripon one of Yorkshire’s great success stories."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter