PLANS for a new Business Improvement District (Bid) in the heart of Sunderland have taken a huge step forward.
The brainchild of Sunderland Business Ltd, the Bid plan 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.
Business leaders say the move would generate about £3.4million to invest in improvements and events to attract more people into the city centre, as well as attracting funds from other organisations such as the Arts Council and Big Lottery Fund.
The plans were laid out at a packed public meeting at Sunderland Minster, in February.
A business plan has now been finalised and an agreement reached with Sunderland City Council on what the authority’s responsibilities will be and what activity the Bid will undertake.
The plan has to be ratified by businesses which will pay the levy.
It has to attract support not only of 50 per cent of all businesses voting, but also 50 per cent of the total rateable value of those businesses.
Now the plan has been signed off, letters have started going out to all businesses which will be eligible to vote, informing them of the timetable.
Ballot papers are due to be sent out on June 20, and businesses will have until July 18 to return their votes.
A Bid spokesman said reaching an agreement with the council had been a vital step.
“This is an important milestone as, although the Bid is a business-led initiative, the Bid regulations state that approval from the relevant billing authority is required prior to public notification of the intention to hold a ballot of eligible businesses.
“We are arranging for business plans to be hand delivered to businesses in the Bid area in the run-up to the ballot papers being issued.
“We are also distributing copies to businesses below the £15,000 threshold and will mail copies to national offices where the voter has been confirmed.”
Details of how the city’s Bid will operate, the area covered and what is planned can be viewed at www.Bidsunderland.co.uk.