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Faversham: New tax for traders as plans for BID drawn up

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Shopkeepers may soon have to pay out an additional compulsory tax towards town improvements.

The town council has this week pledged £5,000 to the scheme known as the Business Improvement District (BID).

If the plans are successful and the BID goes ahead, traders will have to make a payment based on a levy of their business rates and the money will help to fund things such as Christmas lights, improvements to town centre buildings, flowers and greenery and street cleaning.

Preston Street, Faversham.
Preston Street, Faversham.

The BID has already been rolled-in in Canterbury where it has received mix reviews with some traders saying they would struggle to pay the additional charge, but the city seeing a number of significant improvements and new projects.

All the money is ring-fenced so that it can only be spent in the specific BID area with all businesses in the area voting in a ballot to decide whether the BID should go-ahead.

Bigger businesses such as Tesco, Shepherd Neame and BMM Weston would pay a larger sum than the smaller, independent traders.

On Monday evening, BID experts Brian Stapleton and Ima Rix, who are voluntarily working to bring the scheme to Faversham, hoped to win the support of the town council.

Brian Stapleton.
Brian Stapleton.

Mr Stapleton said: “Six months ago I came here and talked about the concept of a BID and we have since then had a feasibility study.

“We have talked to all of the big firms first as they have the biggest say in the vote and all of our discussions with them have been very successful.

“With both big and small businesses, we have been overwhelmed with the response we have had and there is not one business that we have spoken to that says they do not want to be involved with this.We are now at a crossroads and it is around nine months until we get to the ballot, but we need to have some funding to take it forward.

“We have had some really positive meetings with Swale Borough Council and I think that they would like to see Faversham as a pilot and Sheerness and Sittingbourne could follow.”

Mr Stapleton ran a BID in Croydon, one of the 250 across the country, with the majority being hailed as a success.

Mrs Rix, who was once the business manager for the Faversham Business Partnership, spoke on Monday about a number of ideas they have already had such as a town centre app, loyalty cards, Faversham vouchers which can only be redeemed in the town, exploring the possibilities of more shops opening on Sundays and looking at the appearance of the shops and buildings.

Ima Rix.
Ima Rix.

The pair confirmed that if the BID was successful, it would replace the Faversham Business Partnership.

The council agreed “in principle” to borrow £5,000 from its reserves, which will be paid back if the BID is a success.

Cllr Nigel Kay (Con) raised concerns about the BID “cutting across” the work of councillors, Visit Faversham and the tourism officer Hannah Tilley.

Mr Stapleton responded by saying that a BID can strictly not duplicate any work being carried out by the town council or elsewhere.

Market Place, Faversham.
Market Place, Faversham.

Cllr Ben Martin (Ind) said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the town council to show the businesses in the town that we are fully behind them.

“Let’s pull the money from the reserves and push this forward.”

Cllr Nick Green (Con) said: “I feel very strongly about this. There are 250 BIDs across the country and they are working.

“In the scheme of things, £5,000 is not a lot. It is a good signal that we do support proper initiatives like this.

“We do have a reserve pot and from what I can see, it is quite a healthy pot.”

Mayor Cllr Shiel Campbell (Con) suggested that the money should be given to the BID, with a condition that it is paid back if the process is successful, which was supported by the council and taken forward.

What happens next...

  • The next stage includes designing a work programme and producing a proposal for Swale Borough Council.
  • Detailed modelling will take place to look at the levy rates and which businesses will be included.
  • A communication campaign will take place to ensure businesses understand the process and their involvement.
  • The ballot will take place.
  • The BID business plan will be distributed.

To read more about the BID, visit www.faversham.org

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