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Next step for city's Business Improvement District plan

Published on 13 September 2016

MORE than 700 businesses are being invited to give their views on proposals for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Leicester.

Already established in more than 200 towns and cities throughout the UK, BIDs are business-led and business-funded partnerships that complement the work of local councils in promoting and improving commercial areas.

Survey forms are now being sent out to businesses within Leicester’s inner ring road to gauge the level of support for the scheme – which would see businesses paying a levy each year to fund city centre improvement projects – and to find out which issues are seen as priorities.

Responses analysed after the closing date of 30 September will help the BID Leicester steering group draw up a business plan that reflects those priorities, ahead of a ballot of businesses in spring 2017 that will determine whether or not the BID is introduced.

Sarah Thomson, director of strategic partnerships at De Montfort University and co-chair of the BID Leicester steering group – which comprises 25 members of the city’s business community – said: “BIDs have made a significant impact in other UK towns and cities and have shown how the business community can come together for the benefit of the whole city.

“I hope that businesses in Leicester will now take the time to complete our survey, give their support to our BID proposals, and join us in moving Leicester up to the next level.”

The BID area includes businesses in the retail, commercial, leisure and hospitality sectors, recognising the role played by all city centre businesses in creating a vibrant city centre – day and night.

CEO of Curve Theatre and co-chair of the BID Leicester steering group Chris Stafford said: “I truly believe there is potential for Leicester to be a top destination, not just for tourism and leisure but also for retail, hospitality and business.

“Leicester’s changed dramatically in recent years, thanks to the City Mayor’s investment in the city centre and a number of high profile events that have really put Leicester on the map.

“We are in a terrific place and it’s really important that we take advantage of this momentum and work together on Leicester’s BID to help develop a more vibrant and prosperous city centre.”

Businesses in the Leicester BID area would contribute around 1% of their rateable value to the fund each year – generating around £3million for city centre initiatives over the project’s five-year lifespan. Smaller businesses, with the lowest rateable value, would be exempt from the levy.

Funds would be used to deliver schemes and services that will help improve the overall experience for visitors and residents – and boost footfall and trade throughout the BID area.

In other parts of the country, BIDs have funded a wide range of initiatives, including city centre events, uniformed meeters and greeters, discounted parking schemes and special promotions for independent shops and businesses.

Branch manager of John Lewis at Highcross, Gary Rowntree, is convinced that a BID in Leicester would bring benefits.

“The level of collaboration a BID would bring enhances the opportunity for Leicester to achieve its goals and combat competition,” he said.

“As a manager of a well-known national store, and having had experience of the positive impact a BID can have in other locations, I feel the BID is vital to the continued success of the city centre retail sector.” 

Leicester’s plans for a BID were re-launched to the business community in April 2014.  A ballot in 2006 rejected a previous proposal.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby – who is supporting the businesses’ plan for a BID in Leicester – said: “The enthusiasm and commitment of the members of the BID steering group shows that, this time round, the process is being driven by businesses.

“I welcome that commitment, which is indicative of a new confidence in Leicester’s ability to attract new investment, boost footfall and increase trade.”

Survey forms are being sent out this week and should be returned by 30 September. Further consultation with businesses will then take place during the Leicester Business Festival in October, before the ballot is held in spring 2017.

Any city centre business that hasn’t received a survey form should contact the BID Leicester project office at james.dunham@leicester.gov.uk