THE team behind a campaign to revitalise Chester’s ailing city centre has hailed the recent news the city was voted the fifth prettiest in Europe as a boost for the economy.
A poll conducted by USA Today in November found Chester to be more attractive than Prague, Budapest and Venice, with an article describing the city as “charming, delightful and reminiscent of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale”.
“It’s fantastic to see Chester ranked as one of the most beautiful city destinations in Europe and this news will certainly help attract more people to our city,” said Paul Daniels, chairman of CH1 Chester BID.
“We don’t want the ‘feel good’ factor to end there. We want to make sure that visitors experience the very best that Chester has to offer and go home with a smile on their faces and a desire to return.
“That’s why we’re committed to working in partnership with local businesses to deliver improvements in the heart of the city to ensure visitors stay longer, spend more and return.”
The recently established CH1 Chester BID (Business Improvement District) Company is a collection of leading Chester businesses that have joined forces in an effort to improve the economic vitality of the city centre.
Debenhams, Christy, Marks and Spencer, Primark and several well-established independent retailers and hospitality businesses are among the first to back the initiative that could bring in hundreds and thousands of pounds to revitalise the city centre’s retail fortunes.
In June next year hundreds of businesses within a defined area in the heart of Chester city centre will be asked to vote on whether or not to pay a one per cent levy on top of their business rates to fund the extensive programme of activities. If the vote is successful the funds will then be pooled and allocated to support a wide range of improvements and cost savings for the businesses, as agreed by the businesses themselves.
Mr Daniels added: “As a Chester city centre business owner I appreciate how difficult it is to remain competitive in today’s economic climate and that is why we have set the BID levy as one of the lowest in the UK. This initiative is about giving the very best return on that investment for all the businesses in the BID area, which we are fully committed to achieving.”
CH1 Chester BID board founding member Kari Rodgers, general manager of Debenhams in Chester, said: “Chester is a unique and beautiful city, but we can’t rely on that fact alone to overcome the challenges facing our high street today.
“BIDs are a tried and tested formulae with more than 170 other towns and cities across the UK already seeing the bottom-line benefits of securing BID status.
“Through CH1 Chester BID, we’re aiming to bring the whole city together to make improvements that benefit visitors, residents and shoppers and deliver a sustainable future for Chester City Centre.”
Chester Racecourse, Chester Cathedral, the University of Chester and the owners of Grosvenor Shopping Centre are among other businesses backing a yes vote for CH1 Chester BID, with the proposed one per cent business rate levy among the lowest in the UK.
In the next few months the CH1 Chester BID team will be gathering views and ideas from local businesses to see what challenges can be tackled to improve the City Centre offering.