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Winchester BID confident over vote on its future
12:20pm Friday 6th April 2012 in Winchester
A Winchester business association hopes to get the vote later this year to enable it to carry on its work on behalf of city centre traders.
The Business Improvement District (BID) says it is confident it will return for another term, when it faces a vote on its future this autumn.
Its members will vote during September and October whether to continue the BID for another five years.
For it to succeed more than 50 per cent of members must vote in favour, as must more than half of the highest ratepayers.
BID executive director Chris Turner, speaking at the AGM of the BID, said: “It’s a very key period for us and we need to win the vote because if we do not, we stop. It is as simple as that.”
He added that should the BID continue, plans were in place to reduce its levy on members from 1.68 per cent to 1.5 per cent.
Funds raised by the levy are ringfenced to provide improvements to the retail environment in the city centre.
Prof Turner said: “These are troubled times and it’s difficult for some of our members paying the levy. If we can provide the services we do now at 1.5 per cent, we should try to do that.
“My belief is we can earn a bit more money through the BID. Opportunities are there, we just haven’t exploited them yet.”
Prof Turner said the BID planned to use cash reserves of around £70,000 to underpin the reduction in levy to ensure services continued to operate at the same level.
Should the BID not win another term, some of the reserves would be redistributed among members.
He added the organisation had a small surplus of £10,000 from the past financial year.
Jeremy France, chairman of the BID board of directors, said the organisation had delivered a number of benefits to Winchester over the past five years, including increasing footfall and making the city more attractive with Christmas lights and hanging basket displays.
Prof Turner added the BID wanted to extend its coverage to College Street, Kingsgate and Cathedral Close, after receiving interest from businesses in that area.
The city council and Hampshire Police have both backed the BID in its efforts to secure a second term.
Meanwhile, Stuart Simmonds, owner of jewellery store All That Glitters in the High Street, criticised the relocated street market at the AGM.
The market moved from Middle Brook Street to the High Street last summer and has helped increase footfall in the city, according to business bosses.
But Mr Simmonds said: “From my point of view the markets sell things I do, and I do not see what advantage there is in having the stalls.
“If there is money to be spent in the High Street, then surely that money should be spent in shops in general.”
Mr Simmons also said the market restricted pedestrian space in the narrow High Street at peak times.
He said: “We have one of the most beautiful high streets in the country and we have these stalls in the middle of a very narrow street.
“When you are out on a Saturday it is like you are standing in Wembley Way on cup final day.”
Prof Turner said the BID was working closely with the city council to solve problems between traders and the markets, and was trying to reduce the days the markets operate by one per week.
Prof Turner added: “When the markets arrived we were extremely opposed to them. We were irked that they were planted in front of some of our core members.
“But the council have most certainly listened to us and the market is now spread up and down the High Street and there is space between the stalls and the retailers.”
But the market is expected to move should the Silver Hill plans go ahead.