Action plan to breathe fire into ailing town centre

BULWELL TOWN CENTRE -- could it soon be transformed into a Business Improvement District?
BULWELL TOWN CENTRE -- could it soon be transformed into a Business Improvement District?

AN ACTION plan is being put together to turn Bulwell town centre into a more attractive hub for shopping and business.

Nottingham City Council wants to help Bulwell defy the economic crisis and work with traders to create a bright future for the town.

A key proposal being discussed is the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID).

Such a scheme would involve businesses paying an extra fee or tax. The money generated would then be ploughed into town-centre improvements.

Cash could be spent on upgrading street-cleaning, tackling anti-social behaviour, increasing security or simply putting on community events.

Coun Nick McDonald (Lab), a Bulwell member of the city council, says a BID would be aimed at providing more structure for the business centre and would involve traders in key decisions.

But he has concerns about whether it would generate enough money and whether it is the right approach when shops are struggling.

Similar fears were voiced by businesses this week.

Craig Kingsland, manager of the newly-opened Poundland shop on Lower Main Street, said: “Obviously, there are issues of anti-social behaviour and things like that, which would benefit from receiving attention. But I think the main need is for better use to be made of the Market Place.

“It is a large space but nothing happens there on Mondays and Thursdays when there is no market. People should be kept active and as interested as possible in making Bulwell an attractive shopping venue.”

One retailer, who did not want to be named, said Bulwell had been adversely affected by the opening of the town’s Tesco Extra superstore on Jennison Street, largely because it offers free parking.

He did not think the council was doing enough to stimulate Bulwell businesses and added that it was “a bit rich” for it to come up with a plan which would mean them paying more.

Ideas for boosting Bulwell trade have come too late for another Lower Main Street shop, KT’s Discount Books, which is getting ready to close. The owner, Katie Levy, said “extortionate” business-rates were a key factor in the decision.

As part of investigations into how to improve Bulwell, a city council officer has worked in the town for two days a week for the last six months.

He has spoken with traders and shoppers, and information will be fed into any action plan.

It is hoped a repair programme can be launched for Market Place and a new electricity supply installed to allow community events to be staged.

Coun John Hartshorne (Lab), another Bulwell member of the city council, has backed plans to put more focus on the Market Place. Fellow councillors agree action must be taken.

Bulwell’s Labour MP, Graham Allen, said: “I think, for too long, the town has been treated like a poor relation, so I am glad some thought and energy is going into how we can improve the retail opportunity for Bulwell.

“If the council listens closely, it can only lead to improvements.

“I welcome resources coming to Bulwell in any guise.”