Friday, 15 June 2012

Local business look set to back BID for city centre improvements

A plan with local businesses support to introduce a Business Improvement District in Lancaster City Centre to commence in April 2013 seems to be gathering steam, with a vote on the scheme set to take place later this year.

A Business Improvement District is a partnership between businesses, local authorities and other organisations to work together to improve the trading environment of a specific area, to make it a more pleasant place to live, work, invest and visit.

BIDs are different in two key respects to other regeneration initiatives that go on in towns and cities across the UK. Firstly, they provide new and additional activity to complement what is already going on. Secondly, they are driven by the private sector - they are led, financed, and managed by the businesses that trade within their local areas.

Lancaster's Chamber of Commerce has held a series of meetings to discuss the proposed BID with various business sectors, who will all be ballotted in October or November on the plan.

Participating businesses pay a fee based on a percentage of their annual rates in order to fund improvements within the BID district’s boundaries; the services it provides are decided by the businesses taking part in the scheme and are ancillary to those that the local Council currently provide.

"If a 'Yes' vote is achieved then the levy can be introduced in the financial year April 2013 together with the creation of a BID Management group to take projects forward," Jerry North, who is the manager of St Nicholas Arcades, told virtual-lancaster.

"So far, we have met with representatives from the nightime economy/licensed trade,the retailers and we recently held a the focus group is for the tourism and leisure section."

A meeting with Lancaster's commerce sector will soon conclude the focus group sessions.

"The BID Business Plan is currently in the final stages of preparation to be submitted to Council Cabinet for approval at their July meeting," he added. "This will then be made available to all contributing businesses in the BID area.

BIDs elsewhere in the country are currently supporting a wide range of projects including employing City Centre Managers, reducing crime and improving safety, signage and lighting, better management of the night time economy, co-ordinating marketing and promotional campaigns, and attracting new business and investment.

"The Plan's chief aim, together with what has been being discussed at the focus groups,is to describe the type of projects which the BID fund will be used to pursue," Jerry explains, "and, most importantly, to stress the fact that these types of project would never fall within the normal City Council remit and are only going to happen because of the commitment from the business community."

Originally BID’s were introduced through legislation in 2003, with the first pilot BID’s launched in London, all successfully balloted by 2006. Since then, the scheme has been rolled out across the country. There are over 130 BIDs operating throughout the UK the vast majority of those in town and city centres.

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