MORE shoppers, cheaper costs, and even fewer seagulls scavenging in Taunton town centre – that’s what businesses can expect if they agree to pay an annual levy over the next five years.

Representatives of firms heard from key players in two rival shopping destinations how voting in favour of making Taunton a Business Improvement District (BID) could transform the town centre.

John Hirst, chief executive of Destination Bristol, told the meeting at the County Ground on Tuesday how the city centre had fought back by raising millions of pounds of BID money.

“BID sends out a really positive, self-help message,” said Mr Hirst, who stressed that it is important to “spend the money raised wisely”.

Peter Jones, from the environmental company involved in Bath’s BID, told delegates the scheme enabled participants to save money and see their cash spend more wisely through “collective power”.

Mr Jones said Bath businesses had save huge amounts by all using the same waste collection firm, while the city centre had also become tidier – including a reduction in the number of seagulls leaving a mess following the introduction of gull-proof hessian bags to hold waste.

Taunton Town Centre manager Graham Love explained that if a majority voted for the BID, then all businesses except the smallest ones would have to pay a 1% levy on their rateable value, which would raise £1.3million over five years.

The kitty would then be used for marketing campaigns to attract more shoppers, special events and initiatives to reduce costs for businesses.

Firms voted in 2012 against renewing a previous BID when it ran out.

If the latest BID goes ahead, the levy money will be passed to Taunton Town Centre Company and a committee of business volunteers will steer the delivery of projects to ensure it is spent wisely.


January 17: notice of ballot sent to businesses.

January 31: postal ballot papers sent out.

February 28: ballot papers must be in by today.

March 3: ballot result published “as soon as possible”.

April 1: the BID starts if the ‘yes’ vote wins, with the first year’s levy demand sent out.