TOWN centre businesses will be asked to vote on a £2m plan which could promote retail and trade.

Proposals for a new business improvement district have been approved by the borough council's cabinet

And now a ballot is set to take place to see whether more than 400 firms and organisations wish to unite under the same umbrella.

The plans would see a 1.5 per cent levy applied to all businesses with the defined BID town centre area, of enterprises with rateable values of £12,030 or more.

It is estimated there are more than 400 possible qualifiers, which would generate around £400,000 per year, in returns, or £2, over the five-year life of the scheme.

Some of the benefits of the initiative would be improved marketing and promotional work for the town centre, to drive footfall and increase spending, including an annual events programme, as well as upgraded security and cleansing routines.

Town centre ambassadors and hosts could be appointed, alongside a BID manager for the five years. Better signage and car parking could also be considered.

The group could become a 'an influential lobbying group, working on behalf of businesses', while providing support, particularly for smaller businesses, through centralised services procurement.

Cllr Charlotte Morris, the cabinet member for culture and the economy, said: "This is a really exciting opportunity and a long time coming.

"I think we have shown over the last 18 months to two years that our business community has really come together and gone from strength to strength."

Council leader Cllr Eamonn O'Brien said the council's role would be to facilitate the business improvement district process.

He told the meeting the momentum for the BID would have to come from the business community.

Ballot papers will go out on March 2, with firms having until March 30 to cast their votes. The result will then be announced on March 31.

The council itself will be putting more than £37,000 into the BID coffers to begin with, based on the rateable value of its own town centre property portfolio.