Nearly 700 retailers, restaurateurs and other businesses are to be asked their views on how to make Tunbridge Wells a more attractive place to work and live.
In one of the biggest consultations of its kind to be held in the town, firms are having their say on whether to adopt this national initiative.
It is the next step in a move by the community interest company Royal Tunbridge Wells Together [RTW], to promote the creation of a Business Improvement District [BID] from 2019.
Firms in a town centre area which encompasses Mount Ephraim, The Pantiles and Camden Road, will be asked for feedback.
Once that happens they will be invited to take part in a ballot on setting up a company to operate the scheme.
Ultimately, they would be asked to enter a five year agreement that would see them decide and direct events, services or schemes that could improve the town centre.
These would be paid for by all firms contributing a levy, likely to be around 1 per cent and 2 per cent of their ratable value. It remains to be seen whether the levy will be capped for certain businesses and if charity shops will be included.
More than 300 towns have established a BID in the UK since the first was established in Kingston-upon-Thames 20 years ago.
Kent city Canterbury is one of those, and has used the opportunity to promote its arts and historic events as well as organise a Christmas lights switch on.
All agreements are unique to a town and are driven by businesses, rather than a council.
RTW Together, through initial surveys, has identified four areas of priority for the town:
– Improving parking,
– Boosting marketing and promotion for businesses,
– Staging events,
– Making Tunbridge Wells a ‘great place to work’.
Now these initial aspects for improvement have been chosen, further consultations now being undertaken with businesses asked to consider practical options.
For example firms are asked to consider if ‘reduced rates for car parking season ticket holders’ could be one option towards solving the parking issue.