Business bid plans to make Sheffield centre busier

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Making Sheffield city centre busier is the most important strand of a new project where businesses will unite to bring £4 million of improvements.

Enhancing festivals and events, creating a marketing strategy that will sell Sheffield as a tourist and business hotspot on an EU scale, as well as using empty shops are suggested as one focus area of the Sheffield Business Improvement District draft prospectus.

The BID scheme – which will go to a ballot next year – would mean around 640 businesses pay a levy to raise cash for improvements, expected to total £4m over five years.

Now the draft prospectus has set out how that money could be used, and extensive consultation has found that making the city centre busier is the most important aspect for firms.

James Prince, BID chairman and managing director of Sheffield’s John Lewis branch, said: “Making the city centre busier is by far the biggest single element that has come out – the majority of people want a busier city centre.

“We’ve got a whole programme of events which are successful, we want to look at those and analyse them to see which sectors they benefit so we can put in place an enhanced events offer.

“There are a couple of areas of the city centre that have empty units, and that is down to compulsory purchase orders and regeneration, so we would like to work with the council to make these areas as attractive as we can while we wait for long-term investment.”

The BID will aim to help the public and private sectors work together to improve the city centre.

Around 1,000 businesses will be represented, giving them a bigger say and influence in the city.

If it goes ahead – and organisers are confident it will – the council would also retain its current level of funding city centre services during the five-year project.

Peter Sephton, of city centre residents’ group SCCRAG, said 17,000 people currently live in the city centre.

That number is expected to increase in coming years.

He added: “This £4m can make a tremendous difference and it will bring a lot of improvements.”

He said improved signs and public toilets would also be a boost, adding: “We are the Steel City but how does anybody visiting find out about that?”

Feedback is now being sought on the draft prospectus, which is the last stage of consultation.

n Visit www.sheffieldbid.com to have your say.