UNPRECEDENTED enthusiasm is already being shown towards a business-led plan to improve the city centre, according to consultants helping to develop the idea.

Under the plan, Bradford would become a Business Improvement District, with shops and companies paying a small levy on business rates to create a pool of cash to make the city centre safer, cleaner, more vibrant and better promoted.

This combined pot could be worth £2.5m over five years, but the idea has to win a vote among businesses to get off the ground.

Chris Hollins, one of the consultants working on the project, said he had helped dozens of areas set up BIDs but had never seen a level of enthusiasm to match Bradford’s.

He said: “It is absolutely a unique situation to find a city of this size so well prepared for the journey ahead.

“The energy and vitality put across in both the public and private sector is remarkable and will make a big difference to the end result.”

Mr Hollins was speaking after the first meeting of business and council leaders since the BID idea was made public last week.

He said he had spoken at similar meetings elsewhere in the country where there had been a “vociferous lobby” against the idea of paying a levy, but they had seen nothing of the sort in Bradford.

Mr Hollins is working with consultancy firm Heartflood, which has been commissioned to handle the process, from an early feasibility study through to the vote, which could take place next autumn if all goes well, today's meeting at the Midland Hotel heard.

Ian Ward, the general manager of The Broadway who is chairing the BID development team, said the shopping centre’s footfall figures were up by 12 to 15 per cent year-on-year, when “most shopping centres would bite your hand off for one per cent less at the moment”.

But he said The Broadway was “not the saviour of Bradford” and was only a key part of the jigsaw, with all the other businesses in the room also holding pieces of the puzzle.

Mr Ward also spoke about his experience running a BID when he ran a shopping centre in Liverpool.

“The BID was a fundamental part of how Liverpool moved forward, there are no two ways about it,” he said.

“If Keighley can have a BID, my god, Bradford can have a BID - and that’s not being disrespectful to Keighley in any way, shape or form.”

Neither the specific area which would be covered by the improvement district, nor the size of the levy, have yet been set - but levies in other areas are often charged at about one per cent of rates.

Dave West, director of Little Germany Action Ltd, is heading up a sub-group within the BID development team looking at how the initiative could make the city safer.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “Bradford is the biggest city in England without a BID and if it works in other places it has got to be good for Bradford.”

Sandy Needham, of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, is one of two deputy chairmen of the development team.

She said many people had outdated views of Bradford which didn’t reflect recent regeneration work and that a BID could help to promote it, as well as making further improvements.