Business Improvement Districts (BID) were introduced in the UK as a consequence of legislation created in 2004. Statutory Instrument 2443 in 2004 was entitled “The Business Improvement District (England) Regulations 2004” and this outlined the concept of a BID and what procedures had to be followed in order to introduce one into a location. The first BID was in Toronto in 1970 and in 1974 the first in America was created in New Orleans.
As of 2020 there are over 300 BIDs in the UK there are four BIDs in Suffolk, in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.
The concept of a BID is to allow local businesses, within a specified geographical area, to provide a percentage of the rateable value of their trading unit, to be paid to an independent, not for profit, organisation, who then spend the money on behalf of the businesses in order to improve the trading environment for their members.
In order for a BID to be introduced there is a requirement of a ballot whereby all businesses above a stated rateable value and within a geographical area are invited to vote on whether a BID should be introduced. The legislation states that for a BID to be introduced there needs to be a majority of all who vote in favour of the proposal and of all who do vote the total rateable value of all these businesses is calculated and again there needs to be a majority of the total rateable value in favour of BID.
Every existing BID is required to hold a ballot every 5 years when all BID members are given the opportunity to vote and to indicate whether they want the BID to continue.
They are also required to consult with their members to identify the priorities to be delivered over the five year term and to produce an appropriate business plan.
In regards of the Our Bury St Edmunds BID, it was created on 1st April 2010 and was successfully returned for its third 5 year term (when the ballot result was announced on the 29th November 2019), which commenced on 1st April 2020.
Of those businesses who voted in the most recent ballot, 123 (84%) asked the BID to continue and this was the highest level of support received at the 3 ballots over the past 10 years.
In regards of the Our Bury St Edmunds BID, the geographical area that is covered is see here. Businesses with a rateable value of over £10,000 are required to pay 2% of the rateable value of their business premises a year, as their membership fee. Businesses below this £10,000 threshold can ask to join the BID as a voluntary member, where the annual cost is £200.
For the current 5 year term a business plan was created.
As you can see there are 4 main objectives to be delivered and the activity of the BID team (3 employees) will focussed upon Enhancing the Visitor Experience, Marketing the town and our businesses, Improving the trading environment and Making our town greener.
The plan was created prior to the onset of the Corona virus so the actual activities, initially identified may no longer be appropriate but the objectives still remain extremely relevant.
Currently we are exploring the opportunities of introducing a phone/tablet app for the town and BID businesses, a gift card for the town as well as town centre free wi-fi coverage.
We are also planning to organise events for 2021, subject to Government guidance and to also promote events and activities planned by other organisations. These will include the Abbey 1000 celebrations, the Christmas Fayre, the twice weekly provisions market and the regular Farmers markets, that take place on the 2nd Sunday of every month (December – February excepted).
Bury St Edmunds is currently one of the top retail and tourism centres in East Anglia and the town centre continues to be home to a vast array of top quality Independent businesses, together with many national brands.
Over the past few years, the quantity and quality of food and drink businesses in Bury have increased considerably, to such an extent that Bury is undoubtedly the foodie capital of Suffolk!
The BID, along with many other statutory and voluntary organisations, has contributed to the successes of the town since it was created and long may this continue.
It remains as important as ever that the town and our businesses are adaptable to change to the new requirements of consumers and the BID can assist with implementing these changes and ensuring that the town centre and BID members continue to be “fit for purpose” as we all move into a “post Covid” world , experiencing and delivering products and services for whatever will be the “new normal”.