THE manager of Bradford’s Kirkgate shopping centre says the planned Business Improvement District is “an opportunity the city can’t afford to miss.”
Catherine Riley (pictured), who has been centre manager at Kirkgate Shopping for more than 24 years, says the BID is a brilliant way to rally the city’s business voices to get the best for Bradford.
“It’s essential that we work together because we all want the same thing, which is the best for Bradford,” she said. “We make our livelihoods from it, all the people that work in the centre of Bradford make their livelihoods from it, and we deserve the best for it.”
Voting papers for the month-long postal ballot for the BID project, which would deliver £2.5 million of improvements over five years, go out on September 13. More than 630 businesses and other city-centre based organisations will be asked to vote in favour of a levy of up to 1.25 per cent on their business rates. The proceeds would be spent on four key “pillars” – Safe, Clean, Alive and Promoted – to improve the safety, cleanliness, vitality and marketing of Bradford’s retail heart.
Ms Riley said the BID is a chance to unite those who believe in the city with a single voice.
“The BID is an opportunity for Bradford businesses to speak with one voice and for the voice of businesses to be heard,” she said. “We’re going to be speaking up about all sorts of things, including the four pillars.
“Everybody is concerned about how we remain safe in the city, how clean the city is and – probably more importantly for me because I’m involved with those issues every day – I’m interested in how we promote the city, shout about how great the city is, all the fabulous things that are going on, and the way everybody is working together.
“And that comes back to having one voice. It’s important we’re all saying the same thing, in order to be heard.”
The city had undergone a lot of changes over the last 10 years, especially in the retail environment, which had made it very challenging.
“But I think the BID can help Bradford grow through those challenges,” said Ms Riley. “I think things are on the upturn. While footfall around the country is declining, ours is stable.
“Bradford has an awful lot to offer. People that live and work here see what we have to offer but there are a lot of people who haven’t been back here for a long time, many years in some cases, and we hear them say: ‘I’ve not been for ages but I wish I had and I’m going to start coming back.’ And that’s what we want and what we need. It’s also what we deserve.
“But we need to get the right message out. Bradford has never been an unsafe place to be, for instance. I chair the Business Crime Partnership and we have no more crime here than they in any other city centre in the North of England – it’s the perception of crime that is more of a challenge for us.”
Earlier this week, it was announced that TJ Hughes will be returning to the city next spring after an absence of seven years with a 32,000 sq ft anchor store in the Kirkgate centre.
“And watch this space for more good news coming soon,” said Ms Riley. “The thing about the BID is that everybody that’s involved with it is passionate about Bradford and about wanting the best for Bradford.
“So if any business owner has doubts about which way to vote in the ballot, I’d just say: pick up that ballot paper, vote ‘Yes’ and put it back in the post straight away!”