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Oxford businesses could pay to improve shabby streets

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Oxford commercial property agency working with commercial landlords and tenants. Start-ups to established businesses. Office, retail, industrial and leisure sectors. 

Oxford businesses could pay to improve shabby streets

Amy Williams

Shops, restaurants and cafes could be asked to pay for improvements to Oxford city centre streets like Cornmarket, 10 years after a similar project 'failed miserably'.

A plan for a BID - Business Improvement District - was put forward a decade ago but was not successful.

Now a scheme has been mooted by the newly-established City Centre Task Force made up of civic leaders and leading businesses.

Following the opening of the £440m Westgate Centre, parts of Cornmarket Street have been left looking shabby after several major chains relocated to the new shopping complex.

Jesus College has multi-million pound plans to revamp Northgate House on the corner of Cornmarket and Market Street including new shop units, but building work is not expected to start until the new year.

The BID would see shops, restaurants and other businesses pay a tax which could fund road surface improvements, new street furniture like benches and signs, flower planters or anything else they agree would be good for business in the area.

The proposal is not a concrete one yet but the possibility was raised at an inaugural meeting of the task force, attended by the city council's city centre manager Laurie-Jane Taylor.

Retail expert Keith Slater, a director of the Oxfordshire Town Chambers Network, said: "High streets are facing their toughest trading climate for five years with about 14 shops across the country closing every day, so retailers in Oxford will think very carefully before they sign up to investing money in improvement projects.

"BIDs define an area that needs to be improved, then get traders to sign up and agree to pay a certain amount towards improvements.

"I think this would only work if retailers were told in advance what improvements they would be getting before they sign up, so they have some incentive to do so.

"The BID would work towards its own improvements, alongside the major proposals of developers like Jesus College." Read more here.

Image: Oxford Mail