THE chief executive of one of the district’s most influential business groups says a Yes vote for Bradford BID could make a “critical difference” to the city centre’s future prospects.
Trevor Higgins (pictured), of Bradford Breakthrough, said businesses in the heart of the city are in urgent need of support and a business improvement district would be one of the best ways to provide it.
“Bradford is no different to cities and towns across the country in that their retail districts are also facing a huge number of challenges,” said Dr Higgins. “High streets everywhere are under pressure from changing shopping habits. Even cities like York, which is seen as a thriving shopping mecca and the envy of much of the north of England, has its problems.”
He said a campaign had been launched there in the last few weeks to help support the high street and a survey by the Civic Trust had shown there were even 12 empty units in Coney Street, one of its most important shopping thoroughfares.
“Of course, there are many different ways to help out high streets – there are some national calls for business rates to be reformed, for instance – but there’s also a great deal that businesses themselves can do if they are given the opportunity,” said Dr Higgins.
“The BID provides just that opportunity; it is a business-led and business-financed organisation that works to improve the trading prospects of city centre businesses by helping to increase footfall.
“It helps to make the city centre a nicer place to be through improved cleaning, making visitors feel safer and generating activities and entertainment that draw the crowds and encourage shoppers – at the same time giving retailers and other organisations a big say in how it all works.”
Dr Higgins, who has been acting as joint deputy chair of the Bradford BID development board, said there were lots of examples of successful BIDs across the country.
“We know they work,” he said. “There are more than 320 BIDs operating across the country and at least 40 new ones being prepared by business groups around the UK as we speak. Why would so many people want a BID if they didn’t provide significant benefits?
“There can be no doubt that a BID could make a critical difference to the future of our city centre.
“It’s not going to solve every problem – there’s only so much we can achieve with £2.5 million of levy income across five years – but it can have an impact.
“And, let’s face it, without it the options for improvements are limited. The Council can only do so much with its shrinking resources and there is no-one with a magic wand waiting in the wings.
“If we want the private sector to invest here and bring more jobs and prosperity, we need to make the city centre a more attractive place for residents and visitors alike to spend their leisure time.”
But, he said, the future of the BID was now in the hands of the 630 businesses taking part in the month-long postal ballot, which closes on October 11.
“I would urge anyone who hasn’t voted yet to tick the ‘Yes’ box and get their ballot paper back in the post as soon as possible,” said Dr Higgins. “We need to get those votes in as early as we can so we can ensure everyone who is entitled to a vote has had the opportunity to use it.
“But, above all, we need a Yes vote. Our city centre is counting on it!”