£1m jackpot - but YES vote will be needed in ballot

THE go-ahead has been given for an ambitious project which could see £1 million injected into the community. But the Royston First scheme will still need the support of the business community. Plans for the scheme, which could see businesses pay an extra

THE go-ahead has been given for an ambitious project which could see £1 million injected into the community.

But the Royston First scheme will still need the support of the business community.

Plans for the scheme, which could see businesses pay an extra 2 per cent above the current business rate needed the approval of North Herts District Council before it could make progress.

The district council's Cabinet rubber-stamped the plan on Tuesday evening - and now businesses will be taking part in a ballot.


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Royston councillor F John Smith, the leader of the district council, said he was "highly optimistic" about the project.

"I think it will give new impetus to the desire to improve the town centre particularly, but it's unusual that it covers the entire town," he said.

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"Normally, they cover town centres, but the fact we have got industry on our side in Royston is commendable."

Cllr Smith said those involved in preparing the scheme had put in "a lot of hard work" and shown "a lot of keenness" towards the project.

He said he believed that approval of the scheme in the ballot would make a "considerable difference" the community.

Town centre manager Geraint Burnell said work was under way on a prospectus and the wording of the question for the ballot paper.

Speaking on the Cabinet decision he said yesterday (Wednesday): "We could have been stopped in our tracks by a negative result.

"Instead, we have every ounce of support the district council could give us."

Mr Burnell continued that the decision was "proof that our local authorities believe in our proposed programme".

He added that projects for Royston First complement rather than conflict with the district council's strategic priorities.

Ballot papers and a prospectus outlining the plans will be issued at the end of next month and voting will be taking place from November 3 to December 1

The district council's electoral services will be responsible for the ballot and meet the costs of the exercise.

In a draft prospectus, John Gourd, chairman of the Royston First steering group, said: "We are encouraged by indications that the broad spread of Royston businesses are prepared to support our initiative.

"Royston First will give businesses a unique opportunity to input directly into the needs of the area and give it new life and energy over the next five years."

Mr Gourd stressed that the money raised will be "ring-fenced" for Royston-based projects.

He added that support for the scheme would see a "huge, positive difference" to the town.

Support for the scheme could see more than £1,038,623 generated for projects over the next five years.

A Yes vote for the scheme would see the setting up of a limited company, the Royston Town Forum, which would have a board and be responsible for decisions relating to the project.

The projects to be considered under the scheme will include the rejuvenation of Angel Pavement; an enhancement of the twice-a-week market, the purchase of additional police patrols and the setting up of a community cinema.

In a recent survey both town centre businesses and those on the industrial estate said it was essential to earmark a project to provide youth facilities.

ESTIMATED INCOME

YEAR ONE

£188,000

YEAR TWO

£203,322

YEAR THREE

£209,422

YEAR FOUR

£215,704

YEAR FIVE

£222,175

TOTAL

£1,038,623

Source: Royston First draft prospectus

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