TOWN councillor Hayley Wells-Bradshaw has questioned whether the time was right to charge businesses included in a potential new Business Improvement District (BID).

Cllr Wells-Bradshaw voiced her concern as Knutsford town councillors discussed the possibility of spending £6,000 on a feasibility study into a BID for the town.

BIDs are business-led partnerships which are created through a ballot to deliver additional services to local businesses.

A BID is a defined area in which a levy is charged on all business rate payers in addition to the business rates bill.

Usually there is a levy rate of between one and two per cent of rateable value, a typical BID will last five years and annual income is typically £200,000 to £600,000.

Town centre manager Sandra Curties has created an initial map of the area a BID could cover, bounded by the A50, Queen Street, Drury Lane, Moorside and Adams Hill.

A mock ballot of 27 businesses on the idea of a Knutsford BID saw 12 support the idea, 11 oppose it and four ask for more information.

“I’m not sure the time is right on this one when you are talking about an extra levy on businesses who are not enjoying the most buoyant of economic times recently, and the market testing is 50/50,” said Cllr Wells-Bradshaw.

“I would not say it was dead in the water, but before we go to a full feasibility study costing £6,000 I would prefer a bit more informal engagement with the business community to do more testing about whether they would see this as something worth making a financial contribution to because of the possible gains.”

Cllr James Power said he was nervous about the council spending £6,000 to see whether something was feasible or not.

“Alarm bells start to ring for me, and we should look at this very carefully,” he said.

Cllr Simon Hutchence said: “I am uneasy about this, not to the extent of throwing it off the table.

“If it is going to be done we need to take the businesses with us, and have to have the overwhelming majority with us.”

The events and town centre management committee agreed to defer a decision on a feasibility study pending the outcome of the next Knutsford One retailers’ meeting.