A Cheshire city has been chosen to spearhead a pioneering national campaign aimed at filling empty retail premises and attracting shoppers back to struggling high streets.
As part of the initiative — organised by Business in the Community (BITC) and backed by some of the country’s most successful firms — Chester will now receive a support package designed around its city centre’s needs and giving its retailers access to some of the UK’s most successful business leaders.
CH1ChesterBID, the city’s newly formed Business Improvement District team, will now become part of the Healthy High Streets campaign which hopes to create at least 3,000 new jobs across the 100 towns and city’s invited to join the scheme. The organisation also wants to increase national footfall by 10 per cent over the next three years and reduce the number of empty shops by a fifth.
Chester is among 29 towns and cities selected to take part in the first round of the Healthy High Streets project. Each location is assigned a mentor company — or “High Street Champion”— with the Cheshire city being guided by Boots UK. Other supporting businesses include the Co-operative Group, Santander and Marks and Spencer.
“We are over the moon at being selected for the Healthy High Streets project,” said CH1ChesterBID chairman, Paul Daniels. “We believe it will provide additional support to the plans we already have in place to revitalise our city centre and re-establish Chester as one of the UK’s best destinations.”
Chester is one of 170 locations across the UK which has set up Business Improvement Districts (BID) companies to fund improvements to commercial centres. More than 500 firms in the city centre with a rateable value of more than £18,000 have agreed to donate one per cent of their annual business rates to generate around £2.5m. That will be used to fund marketing campaigns and organise events.
“The BID team has done a magnificent job in getting Chester involved in such a huge national campaign,” Daniels added. “This support, in addition to the £2.5m investment and range of benefits that Chester’s BID is bringing, will really give our city centre a fantastic opportunity for future growth and success.”
Kari Rodgers is senior store manager at Debenhams and a CH1ChesterBID board member. “Up until now we’ve been powerless to stop ourselves falling further behind cities like Manchester and Liverpool,” she said. “Now we can take control of our own destiny and do the things we know will get more local people and more visitors back on the high street. It really is an exciting time for Chester.”
Supported by the Prince of Wales as one of his Prince’s Charities, BITC was set up in 1982 as a business-funded outreach organisation. It now sponsors The Responsible Business Awards, presented annually to businesses judged to “show innovation, creativity and a sustained commitment to corporate responsibility”.
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