A NEW dawn for St Austell could be on the horizon after the town voted yes to a Business Improvement District (BID).
The town may have missed out in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee city status competition and a slice of marketing guru Mary Portas's £1 million for ailing high streets but it will now be receiving a £600,000 windfall over the next five years.
The votes of a formal ballot were counted on Thursday last week.
Of the 195 businesses eligible to vote, 106 took part (55 per cent). Of those, 80 businesses voted in favour (75 per cent).
This is the largest majority vote of any BID in Cornwall – higher than Truro, Newquay, Falmouth and the most recent in Camborne.
St Austell is the 150th BID to be approved in the UK. They see businesses within the BID boundary pay a levy on their business rates, which goes into a ring-fenced pot to be spent on improving the town.
From April 1, £120,000 will be available to spend on projects that the businesses themselves have indicated as priorities to attract more visitors to the town.
This follows 18 months of hard work by the members of the steering group.
"This is a fantastic result for St Austell. After months of consulting, canvassing and convincing, this small group have achieved what we set out to achieve all those months ago. We have spoken to the businesses of the town and with limited funds, already addressed key issues raised – driving footfall and parking," said group chairman Chris Witt.
"Now look out. We have major resources to put our town back on the map and show everyone what St Austell is all about."
It is now hoped further funding can be secured by businesses on the outskirts of the town or under the £5,000 rateable value threshold.
Tom French, St Austell Bay Chamber of Commerce chairman, said: "This is a very important event in the development of St Austell, as it will provide the management and funds over the next five years to help refocus the identity and activities available in the town centre, which will better meet the aspirations and needs of the community.
"I congratulate Chris Witt and his steering group."
Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for economy and regeneration, said: "I am delighted that businesses in St Austell are supporting this initiative."
He added: "Nationally, town centres are facing huge challenges and to see the local business community in St Austell coming together to steer the future of their town centre is very encouraging."
The next step for St Austell's BID is to put a board of directors (unpaid) in place to oversee the delivery of the scheme and ensure the money is invested responsibly in areas that will make the maximum impact.
A paid BID manager will also be appointed to deliver the programme, reporting to the board and accountable to all the levy-paying businesses.
For more information on the BID or the above roles visit www.staustellbid.co.uk or contact BID development officer Josyanne Thatcher on 01872 224378 or e-mail josy firstname.lastname@example.org