Sunderland businesses vote ‘yes’ to £3.4million city centre improvement plan

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SUNDERLAND has backed the Bid.

Plans to set up a new Business Improvement District (Bid) in the heart of Sunderland have been given the thumbs-up by city centre businesses.

Results are announced for the BidSunderland - Business Improvement District - at the Sunderland Software Centre.'Garry Hutchinson, Harry Collinson and Andy Bradley raise a glass to celebrate the result.

Results are announced for the BidSunderland - Business Improvement District - at the Sunderland Software Centre.'Garry Hutchinson, Harry Collinson and Andy Bradley raise a glass to celebrate the result.

The “Yes” vote is a huge economic boost for the city centre, which will benefit from at least £3.4million investment over the next five years.

A new Bid company will be up and running by April next year with a remit to make the city centre a cleaner, brighter, safer place with more events, marketing and promotion and a more vibrant evening economy.

More than 450 city centre businesses with a rateable value of more than £15,000 will pay a 1.5 per cent levy on the business rates over the next five years.

All of them were eligible to vote on the scheme, which had to attract support from at least 50 per cent of those voting, and 50 per cent of the properties’ rateable value.

An audience at Sunderland Software Centre last night heard there had been 172 votes cast, with 108 (62.4 per cent) voting in favour, representing 67.5 per cent of the total rateable value. One vote was rejected

Bid Steering Group chairman and Bridges Centre director Andy Bradley said: “This is fantastic news for Sunderland city centre and will be a real catalyst for positive change.

“The Bid plans to make the city centre a more attractive and welcoming place for visitors, both during the day and in the evening.

“I’m thrilled the support we’ve seen from the business community has translated into a ‘Yes’ vote.

“The hard work starts now to make sure the Bid company is up and running and ready to start making a real difference in April next year.”

Harry Collinson, owner of Collinsons Jewellers, is chairman of the Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association.

He said: “Businesses from all sectors – pubs, restaurants, retailers, professional services, taxi drivers, creative industries and service providers – helped to develop the Bid Business Plan.

“We can’t wait to get started on making exciting things happen in the city centre.”

SAFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson is chairman of Sunderland Business Ltd, the driving force behind the Bid plan.

He said:“This is an incredibly important milestone for Sunderland and is the culmination of more than 12 months of hard work among businesses, to bring together exciting plans for the city centre.

“We’ve seen fantastic passion, creativity and enthusiasm from businesses and partners alike, who all have Sunderland’s best interests at heart.

“I would like to thank everyone, including Sunderland City Council, who has wholeheartedly backed the Bid.”

The Yes vote was also welcomed by Julie Grail, chief executive of British Bids, the industry body representing Business Improvement Districts.

“We are delighted that Sunderland city centre is joining the growing number of BIDs across the country,” she said. “Bids can make a real difference to the local economy and help drive forward positive changes.

“It’s very encouraging to see how well the businesses and council have worked together to develop the Bid plans for the benefit of the city.”

Echo editor John Szymanski, a Bid ambassador, said: “I am delighted that businesses had the foresight to vote ‘Yes’, invest in the city centre’s future and help lay the groundwork to unlock millions of pounds in funding.

“The Echo backed this all the way. Clinching Bid status is exactly what Sunderland needs to overcome some very stiff challenges, and this result is a real shot in the arm for the city and its people.”