PLANS to boost trade in Taunton during the next five years faced a setback this week as businesses reject proposals to invest up to £1.3m to improve prospects for trade in the county town.

The five year plan for recovery and improvement was put to the vote last month in a ballot of 500 businesses trading across Taunton but the results were not enough to secure the plans proposed by Taunton Town Centre Company on behalf of the business community. The vote is based not only on numbers but on rateable values with the result missing narrowly on both counts. 48% of votes cast in the postal ballot were in favour representing just 46% of rateable value among the votes meaning that the proposals for a five year Business Improvement District for Taunton have been rejected.

An attempt to renew BID proposals18 months ago similarly failed to win the vote in another very close ballot, despite the majority of businesses voting in favour at that time.

Taunton Town Centre Company put forward the most recent proposals during 2013 following extensive consultation with businesses, seeking a new focus for trade in the county town.

Consulting with its business membership and the wider business community Taunton Town Centre Company learned that firms face a tough challenge in the next five years to counter the national trend of declining footfall, shrinking demand for retail floor-space and increased competition online. Many of the town’s national retail businesses put their support behind the new scheme including high street stalwart Boots the Chemist.

“Through participation with local firms, Boots and other business members of the Town Centre Company put together a robust and comprehensive plan to focus on building footfall, reducing business costs and lobbying for improvements within the county town,” said Adam Carbis, Manager at Boots.

“We all faced a difficult decision last month on whether to divert our scarce resources into new activities through the BID.” he said.

Speaking about the future plans of the Taunton Town Centre Company, Chairman Guy Bottard was confident that the role of town centre management would continue. “The Company has gone through big changes in the last 18 months and is controlled by its business members. We will discuss our future plans with the company members in light of this week’s ballot decision in order to take the Company forward.

“We all want the best for Taunton and will of course continue to work with town centre businesses, the private sector and local authorities to bring forward projects which protect and enhance the vibrancy and viability of the county town.”

What's your view on the BID? leave your comments on this story.