'Positive' response to ambitious plans

PUBLISHED: 20:07 23 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:50 11 May 2010

THE opening move in an ambitious project to create at least £150,000-a-year in a regeneration package has been given a positive response. The Royston First scheme will see the business community pay about 3 per cent more on business rates to meet the cost

THE opening move in an ambitious project to create at least £150,000-a-year in a regeneration package has been given a positive response.

The Royston First scheme will see the business community pay about 3 per cent more on business rates to meet the costs of improvement projects.

Royston's town centre manager, Geraint Burnell, said there had been "an overwhelming positive response" to the scheme from the business community.

"There were no more than a handful of negative comments," he said.

The ideas behind the proposals were set out in a survey circulated to businesses in the town centre and the industrial estate.

Mr Burnell said a list of 20 projects that could be undertaken have now been drawn up with a priority list of five projects from the town centre and the industrial estate.

"We are saying we can do the things that politically couldn't be done," he said.

"There isn't going to be anything spent by the councils because they don't have the money. There is no more money around."

But Mr Burnell stressed that North Herts District Council had been "extremely co-operative" and "supportive".

Mr Burnell and John Gourd, of Johnson Matthey, who is playing a leading role, too, in the project recently outlined plans to members of the district council's Cabinet.

There was "wholehearted support" from members which led to the Cabinet giving Cllr Richard Thake, portfolio holder for planning and transport, and Cllr Tricia Gibbs, portfolio holder for community engagement, responsibility to steer the project through the council.

The business community in Royston is likely to be given the opportunity to vote in a referendum at the end of September or early in October.

Support would mean that Royston could make a bid to become a Business Improvement District (BID) which would need the approval of the Government's Department of Communities and Local Government.

Meanwhile, Mr Burnell is involved in meetings to draw up budgets for each of the projects.

This will lead to the production of a business plan and the building of a referendum document.

"This will be a document which will give budgets and timescales on all the projects we are going to do along with the money we are proposing to raise," said Mr Burnell.

He continued: "Now we have got to the sums to see how much each project will cost and how much we have to raise."

Mr Burnell said there was not a conflict between Royston First and the district council's town centre strategy.

"Everything in the town strategy is working around this," he said. "The district council has taken into account what we are doing.

"We are working on different timescales."

One project involves the rejuvenation of Angel Pavement.

In the short-term, Royston First sees its task as keeping it going and to make improvements.

In the long-term, the district council will be taking the lead role in looking at the possible redevelopment of the area.

Mr Burnell said he was aware of the current economic downturn , but the Royston First proposals could be seen as "an investment for the future".

TOWN CENTRE TOP FIVE PROJECTS

Test the potential for a retail revival by attracting a quality butcher into Royston.

Introduce a better "look and feel" to Angel Pavement.

Projects to be funded to enhance current youth provision and generate much needed additional activities.

Enhance the twice-a-week market.

Encourage and support community groups in running more events in Royston.

INDUSTRIAL ESTATE TOP FIVE PROJECTS

Purchase an additional two-person uniformed police foot patrol for late night duties in the town centre and around the industrial estate.

Projects to be funded to enhance current youth provision and generate much needed additional activities.

Install advanced closed-circuit television systems at both entrances to the industrial estate to record details of drivers and number plates.

Purchase a mobile closed-circuit television camera and mobile digital display. Construct power columns at key points throughout the town.

Bring community cinema to Royston.

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