Traders could take over

IPSWICH town centre could be the first in East Anglia to hand control of its management to the traders themselves, it can be revealed today.Town centre managers are awaiting the announcement of a major cash boost to their plans to launch one of the country's first Business Improvement Districts (BID).

IPSWICH town centre could be the first in East Anglia to hand control of its management to the traders themselves, it can be revealed today.

Town centre managers are awaiting the announcement of a major cash boost to their plans to launch one of the country's first Business Improvement Districts (BID).

Ipswich Partnership has committed £10,000 from its own budget but needs another £40,000 before it can put together a plan to introduce the BID.

The partnership is awaiting an announcement from Ipswich borough council, which is expected within days, over its level of support for the BID.

That could herald the next phase of the project where a newly established company called The Ipswich Experience will develop a detailed improvement agenda for the town centre.

"We have made very, very good progress in discussions with Ipswich Borough Council and I'm expecting very shortly an announcement on the level of the contribution they are willing to make," Paul Clement, head of Ipswich Partnership, said.

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"No bid has presently been launched in East Anglia. We're still committed to being the first in East Anglia.

"It will be the job of the Ipswich Experience company and the people who run it to put forward a business plan that contains projects that will persuade businesses to vote in favour of it."

The partnership, which represents 136 town centre businesses, needs to gain the support of traders, who have the deciding vote on whether a BID will go ahead.

The BID scheme is part of the government's plans for creating partnerships between local authorities and businesses and it could lead to a doubling in the funding the town centre receives to improve the area.

Funds would be raised via an additional levy raised on the business rate and the money generated used to provide extra services not already provided by the borough council.

They could range from marketing campaigns for town centre businesses, additional crime reduction measures or top-up cleansing services.

"It can be anything that the business community wants," Mr Clement said.

"The great thing about BIDs is the businesses set the priorities."

The first BID was launched in Kingston in January and others have been launched in Holborn, Coventry and, most recently, in Plymouth last week.

Work on the creation of the Ipswich business plan is expected to begin in April and could take up to 18 months before a vote is held.

"BIDs will create a premier league of town centre management companies and we want to be in the premier league," Mr Clement said.

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