Voting begins on plan to improve Sheffield city centre

James Prince, chair of the SheffieldBid, is with guests at the first day of the postal ballot for businesses in Sheffield City Centre to vote to create the first business improvement district. Picture: Andrew Roe
James Prince, chair of the SheffieldBid, is with guests at the first day of the postal ballot for businesses in Sheffield City Centre to vote to create the first business improvement district. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Business bosses have set out their stalls explaining how they hope to improve Sheffield city centre as voting on a new project began.

From today, ballot papers will be arriving at 500 firms across the city centre to ask if they want to create a business improvement district.

The scheme works by using a levy imposed on firms which pay over £40,000 a year in business rates, and then using it to carry out £1m of improvements annually.

Most of the cash will be spent on making the city centre busier through events and promotion, with the rest to go on improving safety, boosting cleaning and making parking easier.

Andrew Whewell, owner of Andrew’s Cafe in Chapel Walk, said: “For me this is an opportunity for Sheffield to market itself better and show people what it has got to offer.

“When people ring up the radio to talk about the city centre it’s all about retail and shopping, about how we haven’t got a Selfridges and we haven’t got this.

“What we don’t talk enough about is what we have got - people don’t ask how many world class theatres has Meadowhall got.”

Simon Neville, assistant director of Arup consultant engineers, said he hoped the district would improve the city centre to make workers’ lives easier and more enjoyable.

He added: “If you have happy staff who come to work for you they want to do great stuff.”

The project has been almost two years in the planning and a similar project is underway in Leeds. Voting lasts for a month.

James Prince, managing director of Sheffield’s John Lewis and chairman of the BID champion group, said only a ‘handful’ of business owners had disagreed with the idea as they had to pay.

The council is set to add £200,000 a year to the project.

Mr Prince said: “There’s no council in the UK that can afford to start investing in city centres. Rather than continuing to blame the council we have to take funding into our own hands.”