THE REAL work in setting up a Business Improvement District for Bradford city centre starts now.
That was the message from BID Development Group chair Ian Ward to a packed auditorium at the launch of the BID Business Plan.
Representatives of more than 600 businesses had been invited to attend the event at the Pictureville cinema, in the National Science+ Media Museum to discover how £2.5 million would be spent over five years if the BID goes ahead.
Mr Ward said it had been an 18-month journey to arrive at the Business Plan launch, with “more than 3,000 interactions with local businesses” through open meetings, presentations, and face-to-face discussions and almost 75 drafts of the plan itself.
“We had to make sure we got this right, that we represented exactly what local business wanted, so we could deliver the best for Bradford,” said Mr Ward.
“Realistically, we haven’t delivered anything yet; the real hard work starts now because we need to win the hearts and minds of those 630 businesses in the BID demise area and persuade them to vote in favour of setting up the BID.
“But the sheer number of people at this launch shows just how much the Bradford business community wants this to happen.”
Crowds at the launch event were treated to some specially-devised and produced entertainment, organised by Bradford-based community arts organisation The Brick Box, featuring a “flash-mob”-style breakdance and new BID-themed dance performance by city-based Clean North dance group, and inspirational performances by Bradford poets Haris Ahmed, aged 16, and Kirsty Taylor, who has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Verb New Voices.
The final business plan document sets out a strategy for improving the city centre with money invested by businesses through an annual levy, based on a small percentage on top of their business rates. A typical small business would pay just £3.61 per week, a medium-sized business with a rateable value of, for instance, £65,000 would pay less than £16 per week and the cost to a large business, with a rateable value of £150,000, would be about £36 per week.
The Business Plan is already being backed by a host of small businesses as well as The Broadway and Kirkgate shopping centres, Little Germany Action Ltd, the University of Bradford, Bradford College, Bradford City football club, Provident Financial, Yorkshire Building Society, SunbridgeWells, Bradford Civic Society, Kala Sangam and others.
It sets out four key strategic pillars for improving the city centre, under the Clean, Safe, Alive and Promoted banners.
“Clean” projects will include improving the appearance of empty shops, carrying out extra street cleansing and washing, chewing gum removal, cleaning up graffiti and improving problem areas.
“Safe” objectives will feature work to change negative perceptions of Bradford, establish initiatives to reduce crime and the fear of crime and working with partner organisations to help make the city centre a safe and secure place to be, especially after 5pm.
New seasonal events, including more Christmas activities, more street markets and street entertainment are among schemes to bring the city centre “Alive”, and the “Promoted” pillar will include projects to encourage investment into Bradford, greater lobbying, representation and championing of the city and marketing and promotion to a far wider audience to attract more visitors and shoppers to Bradford.
“It’s all about additionality,” said Mr Ward. “The BID will provide services and enhancements over and above the basic service Bradford Council can provide.
“It will give businesses the power and funding to take action to make significant, targeted and sustained improvements to our city centre.
“Local businesses have decided what those improvements should be and now we need to ensure they vote to support the setting up of the BID when it goes to a ballot on September 13. All they need to do is ‘Vote Yes’!”
The result of the ballot will be declared on October 12. If a majority of those who take part vote in favour – and if, between them, they represent more than half of the total rateable value of the area’s properties – the BID will be formally established before the end of 2018 and will operate until December 2023.