WITHAM’S business leaders could fill the void left by police cuts by funding their own security measures.

Witham Chamber of Commerce, Witham Town Team and Braintree Town Team are in talks to create a Business Improvement District (BID) in Newland Street.

If voted in by businesses, they would pay a levy on top of their normal rates to invest in improvements and protection.

A similar scheme run by Witham Industrial Watch has seen 47 automatic number plate recognition cameras installed and an estate manager hired to watch out for crime and provide a link between all member companies.

Since the BID was introduced five years ago, crime on Witham industrial estates dropped by more than half.

The discussion comes after a recent spate of burglaries and criminal damage to premises in Newland Street, and the forthcoming closure of Witham police station in April.

Liz Storey, chairman of Braintree Town Team, told a Witham Chamber of Commerce meeting last Friday: “We are trying to get enough people to make it work.

“We would need all the businesses in Newland Street to commit in the same way they do in the industrial estates and use the experience and resources they have managed to establish to make this a better place.

“It takes a lot of energy and effort, let alone running a business as well, and it will onlywork by people wanting to help themselves.”

She added: “You know you are safe in Braintree because we have the radio system.

“But in Braintree, we have George Yard to run that – we don’t have that core hub to run that when there’s two separate shopping centres in Witham.

“Because BID works off business rates, you would need to look at all the businesses it would affect in the town and set a level according to that.”

She said businesses in Newland Street had already given positive feedback about the idea.

Tina Townsend, chairman of Witham Chamber of Commerce, said: “As a long-term plan, we have been doing some work for a BID here inWitham.

“Witham Industrial Watch has offered to help.”

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “They are successful because they work in partnership.

“We have a core team of people in Witham Industrial Watch and you would need to formulate that for a BID process.”

Representatives from Essex Police were invited to Friday’s meeting, but they failed to attend.