Businesses in the Lower Don Valley area of Sheffield have voted by a majority in favour of contributing to the cost of installing flood defences through a Business Improvement District (BID).
The decision means the £8.1million project, which will see more than 40 interventions installed across an 8km stretch of the River Don, has taken a significant step forward.
As part of a BID ballot, 82 percent of businesses who voted agreed to contribute £1.4million to the scheme.
The payment will be based on their rateable value for a fixed period of five years to cover part of the building cost and ensure the river channel is properly maintained and kept clear.
In total, 89 companies returned their ballot papers before last Friday’s deadline, with 73 voting in favour of the scheme. Turnout for the ballot, which ran between November 15 to December 13, was 35 percent.
The BID also needed a majority in terms of aggregate rateable value of businesses in order to be agreed.
From a total of £10.86m which took part in the vote, those with a value of £10.12m voted in favour of it to secure a 95 percent majority backing for the scheme.
Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce have been liaising closely with businesses in the area for the last two years to inform them of the flood defences proposals, the BID process and levels of contributions.
Small companies with a rateable value less than £12,000 will be excluded from paying towards the project, while more than 60 percent of businesses in the BID area will pay less than £2,500 over five years towards the flood defences and river management.
BIDs are common in other large cities, but this was the first for Sheffield, and the first in the country around a construction scheme, such as flood defences.
Richard Wright, executive director for Sheffield Chamber, said:
“This is excellent news. The BID vote was an important decision for businesses to make and we are pleased they have seen the value of investing in the scheme.
“We realise it has been a tough period for companies, so we very much appreciate this long-term commitment businesses are showing to improving the Lower Don Valley area.
“It’s a significant development, which will also see substantial financial backing from Government, to improving a key economic location in the Sheffield City Region.”
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for environment, recycling and streetscene at Sheffield City Council, said:
“We are delighted that businesses in the Lower Don Valley have given the go ahead to this scheme. We saw the devastating consequences the floods of 2007 caused to businesses and this scheme will enable us to provide the protection they need to develop their businesses in future.
“Making the city resilient to climate change is essential to the future success of our businesses.
“I believe this flood defence Business Improvement District – the first of its kind in the country – shows that the council and the private sector can work together positively to help achieve this.”
The project aims to improve current standards of flood protection in the Lower Don Valley, which are estimated as low as a 1 in 25-year event standard, to a target of 1 in 100-year event standard, plus a 40cm freeboard to allow for future climate change.
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has already provided £5.5m to the project and an application has been submitted for a further £1.2m from the Environment Agency.
The aim is to have a fully-funded package secured by early 2014 to enable the start on site immediately, with physical completion of the defence by late 2015.
Sheffield’s Lower Don Valley area was severely flooded in 2000 and 2007 causing massive disruption and multi-million pound damages to hundreds of businesses, power, transport and telecommunications infrastructure.
For more information about the Sheffield Lower Don Valley flood protection project visit http://www.scci.org.uk/home/projects/sheffield-lower-don-valley-flood-defence-project