Jeremy Hunt has thrown his weight behind Farnham’s efforts to develop a Business Improvement District (BID) in the town.
The BID is gathering momentum, with a task force of local business people heading the campaign and working on a plan of how the money generated by the process should be best spent.
A series of drop-in events has been held to allow local firms the opportunity to ask questions and discover more about the initiative.
If the campaign progresses smoothly, it is anticipated a vote will be held in October.
If businesses vote for the BID to go ahead, it would generate around £1.7million over its five-year term.
Mr Hunt said: “Some readers may have heard business leaders in Farnham are pooling together to introduce a BID in the town centre.
“This is a scheme by which businesses raise money together to choose and implement projects which they believe will directly benefit the area they are in.
“That does not mean they replace what local authorities do, but instead they complement our regular public services by targeting investment in projects that attract more customers.
“BIDs have had some incredible success stories nationally in the past 20 years since legislation introduced them, and indeed you may well have visited some across the country without even realising– not least Guildford.
“There have been hundreds across the UK, and according to the British BIDs survey they raised more than £140 million in levies – which is obviously music to the ears of a chancellor!
“And what’s more is that this money is completely controlled by local businesses, who use the funding in the specific ways that will most benefit them – without any government ever getting hold of it.
“With the relaunch of the chamber of commerce in the town at the beginning of the year and other organisations like the Federation of Small Businesses offering advice and networking opportunities for business owners, we need more than ever to support local businesses.
“I am confident that if businesses vote in favour of Farnham having a BID, it will be a great success for the community.
“Hundreds of thousands of pounds will be raised each year to be invested straight into local projects – whether access schemes or ones which make Farnham an even more welcoming environment for consumers.
“In the aftermath of the pandemic, Farnham Town Council has been more stretched in the services it has been able to provide compared to the past.
“So a Farnham BID would guarantee funding so businesses can still, for example, benefit from town-wide events which promote local shops and cafes.
“Shoplifting is unfortunately an issue in the area, so the BID is also aimed at ensuring extra support measures are put into place to stop it.
“I therefore really do hope the BID is successful and will look forward to seeing the amazing results from the investment that would be generated for Farnham.”