HIGH-ranking county councillors meet next week to decide whether to back a scheme which hopes to raise around £800,000 for promoting Kendal as a shopping destination.

Cumbria county councillors gathering in Carlisle on Thursday (October 17) are being asked to decide their position on the introduction of the Kendal BID, or Business Improvement District.

The BID idea aims to raise at least £785,165 over five years to be spent entirely on initiatives aimed at drawing shoppers to Kendal and funding initiatives across the town's commercial centre.

Voting started last month among businesses in the town and continues until October 24 with a yes or no result due soon after.

Close to 700 businesses in Kendal can vote.

It would involve the introduction of a levy - one per cent of a business’ rateable value - to generate a new cash pot which could then be swollen by a further £100,000 and possibly more.

The cash would be used to focus on four priorities:

* A comprehensive marketing and promotion campaign for Kendal

* A programme of works to improve the town’s appearance

* Making it easier and more affordable for visitors to access the town centre

* Using vacant premises to promote enterprise and networks to improve business viability

Councillors on South Lakeland District Council have already backed the bid and now county council counterparts, which have properties in the town, decide their move.

Cumbria County Council would have to contribute £5,000 a year as its share.

In a report to county’s ruling Labour-Lib Dem Cabinet, officials said: “There are now 153 successful BIDS in the UK. BIDS can be particularly effective in town centres as a means of stimulating activity and helping to boost trade through increasing footfall.”

It said the cash support would be ‘over and above’ the economic development services South Lakeland District Council already provides.

Last year, Penrith traders went through a similar scheme and backed their BID scheme but Carlisle traders voted no.

Some opponents of BID schemes say it amounts to another bill for small businesses on top of their existing business rates.

But Kendal BID supporters say it represents just a few pence a day and that for over half, it would be no more than the price of a cup of coffee per week.

In the Westmorland Gazette yesterday, MP Tim Farron revealed that the number of empty shops in Kendal rose from 53 to 60 in the first quarter of this year.

However, regeneration partnership, Kendal Futures, responded to say the situation had improved considerably since then with the latest figures showing that six new premises have opened in Kendal bringing the actual number closed back down to 54.