Businesses in Chester have voted to implement a business improvement district, set to raise £2.5m over five years for city centre initiatives.
Improved parking, more events, later opening hours and better marketing are all priorities of the CH1 Chester BID Company that organised the statutory vote and will run the BID.
Nearly 300 city centre businesses took part in the ballot and more than 75% of all votes cast were in favour of the BID.
Paul Daniels, chairman of the BID, said: "We've worked tirelessly to convince people that the BID is our best option for improving our economic prospects, so we're absolutely delighted that the local business community has given us the opportunity to deliver a successful and sustainable commercial transformation."
Almost 60% of city centre businesses within the proposed BID area voted in the ballot; 75% voted in favour of the BID and importantly, the 'Yes' votes also represented 67% of the total rateable value of all the properties that voted. CH1 Chester BID needed to secure at least 51% of 'Yes' votes on both counts to win the ballot.
Daniels added: "The BID will be key to better times for our business community and it will create positive change for our city centre. Working together, we can restore Chester's reputation as the retail, business and leisure destination of choice for our business community, residents, investors and visitors.
"We would like to thank all the businesses for their support throughout the campaign, for having confidence in CH1 Chester BID and for voting 'Yes'. We could not have achieved this without their backing and the support of our partners throughout the campaign."
Daniels added: "To secure a turnout of 60% is well above the UK average and is testament to the hard work and determination of the BID team who have worked tirelessly to get us to this stage and were even chasing ballot papers right up until the voting deadline.
"We can now deliver on our pledge to reverse the decline and bring dedicated marketing campaigns to Chester, bigger and better events and festivals, a world class welcome for visitors, cheaper bills for BID area businesses, a sensible and affordable strategy for car parking for our businesses, residents and visitors and a more joined-up and united approach to city centre life. The hard work really starts now and we can't wait to deliver improvements from the 1 September."
The full BID term will last for five years from September 2014 to 2019. More than 500 businesses in the city centre with a rateable value of more than £18,000 will contribute a levy equal to 1% of their business rates every year to generate approximately £2.5m of private sector funds that will be reinvested back into the city centre.
Kari Rodgers, senior store manager at Debenhams, Chester, and CH1ChesterBID board member, said: "Up until now we've been powerless to stop ourselves falling further behind cities like Manchester and Liverpool. Now we can take control of our own destiny and do the things we know will get more local people and more visitors back on the high street. It really is an exciting time for Chester."
Jason Ellison, owner of the Chez Jules restaurant and also a CH1 Chester BID board member, commented: "This is a real opportunity to address the challenges we've been facing and partnership is the key. The BID will bring our city-centre businesses together so we can work collaboratively to enhance and promote the city's offer, making Chester a place where people want to visit, work and live."