BUSINESSES are being urged to seize a golden opportunity and back innovative plans to transform High Wycombe into a thriving economic hub.

654 firms in the town centre will be balloted next month over proposals to create an initial five-year Business Improvement District.

If approved, all businesses in the town centre will pay a levy based on the size of their company into a pot totalling £1.6m.

The levy would be collected through business rates.

About 30 percent of independents will chip in less than £100 a year, with the retail giants paying thousands into the fund.

This ring-fenced money would be spent on the day-to-day running of the town centre, improvements, organising events and attracting new business into High Wycombe.

And what the cash is specifically used for will be decided by a board of directors.

The board would be made up of - and elected by - business owners, who would represent and be accountable to every company.

Oliver O’Dell, Town Centre Manager, said: "The town is at a tipping point. It has huge potential but it is not just going to magically happen on its own.

"Wycombe needs to be more competitive. The council is willing to invest, Bucks New University is keen to integrate its students and invest in the town.

"It is time the business community comes on board and contributes to a central pot, that everyone controls, and everyone delivers a comprehensive plan that can really take this town forward."

A collection of local business leaders appear in an information pack and video (bottom of the story) supporting the plan, which has been backed by Wycombe District Council, Eden and the Chilterns Shopping Centre.

Ballot papers will be sent to every business which would make up the BID on June 11. Firms have until July 9 to vote.

Mr O’Dell is urging every company boss to have their say so a definitive decision is reached, even if they vote against the proposals.

But he warned that if the plan is shot down, the council-subsidised Town Centre Partnership could fold, meaning businesses would lose their voice.

And annual events - such as last week’s traditional May Fayre and the annual Christmas lights switch - could also face the axe.

Mr O’Dell said: "Recession is not the deciding factor here, we’ve got to do something. For £69 a year, for some smaller businesses, you’ll have a team which will invest £1.6m into the town, you elect the board and you have a say.

"It would cost more to buy a cup of coffee a day then to pay into the BID. You wouldn’t get an advert in the Bucks Free Press for £69.

"The other side, if it gets voted out, is you could end up with no town centre management, no security partnership, no events - so no Christmas – no representation for businesses, and none of the other support the Partnership currently offers without any funding.

"We could do masses here – This is the best economic opportunity Wycombe is going to have to improve itself."

Click on the link (above right) to visit the HW Bid Co website.