Business project could see an 'exciting future'

PUBLISHED: 19:17 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:46 11 May 2010

AN exciting scheme could see at least £150,000-a-year generated for Royston. But it will need the support of the business community to succeed. The plan, Royston First: a Catalyst for Change, will be unveiled at the end of the month in the hope of creat

AN "exciting" scheme could see at least £150,000-a-year generated for Royston.

But it will need the support of the business community to succeed.

The plan, Royston First: a Catalyst for Change, will be unveiled at the end of the month in the hope of creating a Business Improvement District.

Speaking at a press briefing to outline the scheme, Royston town manager Geraint Burnell said: "Such a scheme will make a significant difference and raise more funding for Royston.

"We already have a picture of what is lacking and this will give us the opportunity to meet those needs," he said.

To create a Business Improvement District the proposals will have to gain the support of the business community in Royston.

And there will be a cost, too.

Under the "rules" for setting up an improvement district each business will have to pay between 2-3 per cent extra on its business rate.

This will then be used to cover the costs of projects seen as important to rejuvenating Royston.

Businesses will have to vote in a referendum on whether to accept paying an "extra" rate to provide a pool of cash needed for improvements. At least 51 per cent of businesses will have to support the proposals in the vote.

The proposals, however, could see almost £1 million generated for Royston over a five-year period.

If the proposals are accepted then the Department for Communities and Local Government will have to give the go-ahead.

Mr Burnell described the proposals as a "positive step forward" for Royston.

"The improvements proposed will be those that make the biggest difference to everyone," he said.

The proposals have already received the support of Johnson Matthey, the largest employer in Royston.

John Gourd, the company's site planning and services director, described the scheme as "exciting".

He said a business improvement district would see projects implemented "aimed at improving the economic viability of Royston".

The idea of setting up an improvement district has grown out of discussions by the Royston Town Centre Forum and consultation with at least 500 businesses.

In survey responses from more than 200 businesses some 43 per cent said car parking charges were a "major barrier" to retail growth; 73 per cent said there was a lack of variety in retail outlets and 69 per cent described the twice-a-week market as "poor".

Schemes that could be earmarked under the improvement district project could include cosmetic and other enhancements to the retail area; the provision of a lunchtime hopper-bus service; the creation of a community cinema and improvements to Angel Pavement.

Royston's MP Oliver Heald described the proposals as "a positive step".

He added: "I hope it will have the support it needs to succeed.

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