Sheffield business boost will go to vote

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Businesses in Sheffield city centre are set to vote on whether they are willing to contribute funds to improve the area.

Launching a Business Improvement District could generate £4 million to ‘add vibrancy’ to the city centre, according to a new council report.

The move comes as Sheffield slips down the national rankings – figures from retail analyst CACI show the city dropped from 20th place in 2010 to 28th in 2012.

The report, due to be discussed by the council’s economic scrutiny committee next week, says there are ‘some signs of confidence returning’ to the city centre, but the BID will generate extra funds.

Cash could be spent on subsidised parking, late-night street cleaning, more marketing and additional events to attract visitors.

Firms would pay a one per cent levy if their rateable value is more than £30,000.

For example, a business with a rateable value of £300,000 will pay £300 a year – generating £800,000 annually citywide, or £4 million over five years.

Last year companies voted to introduce a BID in the Lower Don Valley, through which they will help cover the cost of installing flood defences.

The report says Sheffield still has a ‘clear ambition to maintain and grow a vibrant city centre’, supported by festivals, events, bars and restaurants.

Revised plans for a new retail quarter, which went back to the drawing board following the collapse of the Sevenstone scheme, will be announced ‘imminently’.

An expanded food festival on The Moor, more high-profile artists at Tramlines, and a bigger Sheffield by the Seaside programme in summer are all predicted to draw crowds.

“We are also working with partners on a new event to fill the gap that Fright Night has left,” says the report.

A ballot on the new BID is expected in November.

If firms vote in favour, a not-for-profit company would start work on projects in April next year.