The second phase of the city’s successful Growth Zone Scheme has just been launched, with over £1.5 million of funding being released to encourage property and business improvements in priority areas.
The scheme will aim to attract new businesses and other organisations into areas such as Darley Street, which will be hit hardest by the opening of the Broadway development. Funding will be available to businesses which bring empty ground floor commercial space back into use in the priority areas and are looking to invest in property improvements or new machinery.
Mike Cowlam, the strategic director of Bradford’s Department of Regeneration, said, “Whilst recognising the significant progress that’s being made, it’s also clear that the city centre faces challenges to build on this momentum, including bringing vacant properties back into use, addressing the number of empty upper floors in many city centre properties, restoring pride in the city centre and tackling anti-social behaviour.”
However businesses who do wish to apply will need to demonstrate that the investment will contribute to the economic and commercial diversity of the city centre. This will be either through job creation or being able to demonstrate real market potential.
The first part of the scheme saw over £5 million ploughed into over 100 new and existing businesses, such as Artz-i (Kirkgate), Avoriya (Darley Street), Forks Cafe (North Parade) and Cafe Jinnah (Leeds Road), and generated over 300 new jobs in the city centre. Moreover it saw an influx of fresh ideas and a new wave of independent businesses that have gone a long way to improving the city. Those businesses which have already benefited from the scheme won’t be eligible for further funding, but the hope is that their success will inspire others to follow suit.
In an attempt to encourage diversity in the city centre certain businesses such as betting shops and amusement arcades have been made ineligible, while priority will be given to businesses in high growth sectors, leisure and retail and the financial, legal, business and professional services.
Successful applicants will also benefit from up to £16,000 worth of business rate rebate per new full time equivalent job created, which will act as a huge incentive for new businesses and those looking to expand. The rebate period will last up to March 2017, providing the criteria continue to be met.