Eastbourne businesses are to be asked whether they will pay into a scheme which aims to improve town centre shopping.
On Wednesday (June 5), Eastbourne Borough Council’s cabinet agreed to hold a ballot on setting up a Business Improvement District (BID) in the town centre.
Put forward by a group of business working together as Your Eastbourne, the scheme would see around 600 business pay an additional levy on top of their usual business rates.
Unlike business rates, however, all the money raised by the BID scheme – around £300,000 per year according to the team behind it – will remain in the local area and fund projects chosen by those who pay into the scheme.
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Before making their decision, cabinet members heard from Shoes Simes, a local business owner and chairwoman of Eastbourne BID.
Ms Simes, who owns of the Dew Drop Inn and The Eagle pub, said: “We have consulted extensively with the business community in the town centre to find out what is important to them and where we can help.
“BID would invest more than £300,000 a year for five years, meaning £1.5m of investment into the town centre.
“The decisions on where the money is spent are taken by local business community members.”
Ms Simes said the BID would be looking to invest in projects to improve the appearance of the town centre – with planters, winter lighting and better branding – as well as schemes to improve security and increase footfall.
According to council papers the 1.5 per cent levy would apply to all businesses within the area with annual rateable value of £6,000 or more.
This is expected to raise £300,000 a year.
There will be a discount for business with serviced tenancies at the Beacon. There are approximately 74 units that the discount will apply to.
The scheme won praise from the council’s deputy leader Alan Shuttleworth, who said: “This is a really important time for Eastbourne. We have got lots of investment and we are all obviously very pleased with The Beacon and the Devonshire Park developments.
“But it is also a challenging time for town centres and the high street. It is really important that the borough council work with businesses and that is what this is all about.”
Following a short discussion, cabinet agreed the council would hold a ballot on the scheme between July 4 and 31.
It also agreed to pay the levy on the council’s own commercial properties within the BID area – coming to around £5,600 per year – should the scheme be supported at the ballot.
If approved at the ballot, the scheme will be run by Eastbourne BID Limited. While not yet formed, the company will be a subsidiary of the not-for-profit EDEAL enterprise agency.
As a member of the EDEAL board, council leader David Tutt had declared an interest in the item.
Cllr Steve Holt, the council’s lead cabinet member for financial services, had also declared an interest as he is employed by both Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce and the EDEAL enterprise agency.
Both Cllr Tutt and Cllr Holt left the room and took no part in the discussion or vote.
Huw Oxburgh , Local Democracy Reporting Service