AMBITIOUS plans to raise more than £2.7million to breathe new life into the heart of Sunderland are revealed today.
A new Business Investment District (BID) in the city centre hopes to raise the cash during the next five years which will then be spent on festivals and events to draw people into the city.
Harry Collinson, owner of Collinsons Jewellers and chairman of the Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association, is a passionate supporter of the plan, which will be unveiled at Sunderland Minster tonight.
“I am very, very proud of my city, but it could be even better,” he said. “Making improvements shouldn’t just be down to the council or individual groups – it’s down to all of us, which is why the BID proposal is a good one.
“The BID gives us a chance to move the city forward and I urge anyone within the BID area to vote yes when they get the chance to do so.”
The BID proposal is being driven by Sunderland Business Ltd, a not-for-profit company led by businesses and organisations working together to tackle the challenges facing the city and boost trade.
The proposal – currently out to consultation – would see businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or more pay a levy of 1.5 per cent a year over an initial five-year period. Every business which would be affected will be given a chance to vote on the plan.
The Echo is backing with the plans and is urging traders to vote “yes”.
Editor John Szymanski said: “Sunderland is a fantastic city, but more needs to be done to attract visitors and the BID is hoping to do just that.
“Sunderland is a city with so much to offer, but more needs to be done to fulfil its full potential and attract visitors – and the BID is hoping to do just that.
“We need to get behind these plans, help Sunderland move forward and let it compete with the likes of Newcastle to become the kind of bustling and vibrant city which its residents deserve.”
Bridges centre director Andy Bradley, who is chairman of the BID Steering Board, said: “Businesses in the city centre are keen to attract more visitors and we need to do more to encourage people to stay longer and spend more while they are here. We need to improve visitors’ experience whether they shop with us, spend time eating and drinking in the city or meet with city centre businesses.
“A BID would help us to shout louder about our city centre success stories and create a safe and secure environment for people who are enjoying an evening out in our restaurants, clubs, theatre or cinema.”
Sunderland Business Ltd chairman Gary Hutchinson said: “This year is Sunderland’s 21st anniversary of becoming a city – a yes vote for the BID would signal our ‘coming of age’ and help the city centre fulfil its potential.
“A successful BID for Sunderland could see more than £2.7million invested in the city centre over the next five years.”