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Monday, 01 September 2014

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New Carlisle city centre business group formed

A new organisation aims to represent the interests of businesses in the centre of Carlisle.

Jon Stewart photo
Jon Stewart

Carlisle City Centre Business Group – as it is initially being called – holds its first meeting at the Crown and Mitre Hotel in English Street at 5.45pm tomorrow.

It has been forged out of an unsuccessful attempt to set up a Business Improvement District (BID).

A BID would have used a levy on business rates to fund marketing and other initiatives.

City centre businesses voted against the idea in a referendum last September.

The new group has similar ambitions but would have no powers to levy a supplementary business rate.

Jon Stewart, of Bon Appetit in Fisher Street, is one of the prime movers behind it.

Other backers include The Lanes, Bookcase, the Crown & Mitre, the King’s Head and La Pergola.

Mr Stewart said: “The BID is history now but it got businesses talking to each other. We felt there was a need to have a forum going forward. We want a strong voice that has to be listened to.”

Carlisle City Council has £10,000 to spend on city-centre improvements from a national fund set up following a review of Britain’s high streets by retail guru Mary Portas.

Mr Stewart said: “The council has said that, if we set up a forum, we can make recommendations as to how that money should be spent.

“Public and private sectors are very different animals but we do want to work in partnership with the city council. We don’t want to beat them over the head.”

One idea is to put posters or artwork in the windows of empty shops to improve their appearance.

The group may also lobby the council to alter the events programme.

Some retailers are upset that stalls at the seasonal continental markets, run by the council, sell goods that are already available in shops.

Mr Stewart is also keen to improve the flow of information between retailers and other agencies.

He said: “At the moment it’s disjointed. A week last Saturday an 11-coach steam train came into Carlisle bringing hundreds of visitors and nobody knew about it. There was no advance warning.”

Letters have been sent advertising tomorrow’s meeting.

Mr Stewart added: “The meeting is to see who is interested, what they would look to call the group and what the key objectives should be.”

All city centre businesses are welcome to attend.

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