New laws give business more influence in towns
New legislation is to be created to give businesses greater powers to improve town centres, Social Development Minister Alex Attwood has announced.
The new legislation will introduce Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to Northern Ireland’s towns and cities.
This will mean greater powers and control for councils and local businesses because BIDs allow businesses to vote on the services they want to invest in to improve their trading environment.
Services that can be improved include security, street cleaning and even new Christmas lighting.
The announcement came following a meeting with Department of Environment Minister Edwin Poots at which the issue was discussed.
Mr Attwood said: “I am confident that Business Improvement Districts will prove to be a useful tool in supporting town centres to recover from the current economic downturn.
“They have already proved successful in the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and the US and now they can make a difference in Northern Ireland.
“These proposals will enable councils, with the agreement of local businesses, to fund and deliver improved services in specific areas, such as town centres.
“It will give them freedom to work in partnership to decide and deliver the services that are important to them; services that will make our town centres more competitive, safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for all.”
New legislation will follow public consultation on the policy proposals.
Wilfred Mitchell from the Federation of Small Businesses said the move will hopefully help rejuvenate town centres across Northern Ireland and let business owners shape the environment around them.
“This is a welcome development and the FSB would appeal to all business owners to get involved in the consultation process over the coming months and make their views known,” he said.
“This legislation has the power to give business owners greater control over their town centres and the provision of services within them as well as help shape them into hubs of social and economic activity.”