PRIVATE firms in Sheffield could be asked to contribute via an increase in their business rates to a multi-million pound flood defence project.
Plans are being drawn up to build river defences along the Don, between the city centre and Meadowhall, to prevent a repeat of the devastating 2007 floods.
City leaders hope outline planning permission will be in place by the end of the year, with building work to be completed in 2014.
But they require significant investment from the private sector – and are approaching Sheffield businesses to get involved through a Business Improvement District initiative – a mechanism that generates funding by increasing business rates for a limited period.
Already key defences are nearing completion at The Wicker and Nursery Street area where the Don broke its banks five years ago.
The latest plan will see work continue for seven kilometres to Meadowhall.
The scheme is being spearheaded by a partnership between Sheffield Council, the Environment Agency and city businesses.
Richard Wright, executive director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “We were heavily involved in the issues arising from the 2007 floods and made it a priority to look at measures that would minimise the risk of any recurrence.
“We are speaking to companies in the Lower Don Valley on the best mechanism for any contribution.”
Coun Jack Scott, the council’s cabinet member for environment, added: “The involvement of the private sector is critical to the success of the project.
“We understand times are tough for businesses, but the private contributions will be modest, proportionate to size of business and collected over five years to reduce the burden as much as possible.”