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 and in the USA, there are now over 1200. The successful Leeds BID in early 2015 was the 200th in the UK and now there are over 300. There are four BIDs in Suffolk, in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and most recently Newmarket.
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.
During 2009 the existing Town Centre Management organisation investigated the opportunity of a BID being developed in BSE and produced a Business Plan in accordance with the legislation. A decision was made to set the rateable value level (based upon the 2005 assessment), at which a business automatically becomes a member, at £10,000 and that for all eligible businesses the BID levy would be set at 1.75% of the total rateable value per annum.
A decision was also made to identify the geographical area where the BID would cover and the area is what most people would consider to be the town centre. This starts at Angel Hill and extends to the Cinema Complex and B&Q off of Parkway and from Churchgate Street across to St John’s Street. To see a map of the BID area please click here.
In November 2009, voting forms were sent to eligible businesses and there was a 28 day period where the vote could be cast by post.
The Borough Council oversaw these procedures, as required by law, and their returning officer declared the result on 1st December 2009.The result was that 70 businesses voted in favour of a BID and 48 against. Therefore 59.3% had voted in favour. In regards of the rateable value £4,589,700 voted in favour and £2,206,750 voted against. This meant that 67.5% of the total rateable value that had voted had done so in favour of a BID.
As both statutory criteria had been achieved the decision was that a BID would be introduced in Bury St Edmunds.Bid4Bury (which was formally renamed “Our Bury St Edmunds”, in 2013,which had been the brand of the BID since late 2011) went live on April 1st 2010 and had a five year term.
In the early winter of 2014 all eligible businesses were given the opportunity to participate in a ballot to decide whether the BID was given a second term of five years. The ballot was held between 5th November and 3rd December 2014. On 4th December the result was declared that 135 businesses voted for the BID to continue with 28 voting against. Therefore 83.3% had voted in favour by number and over 90% had voted in favour of the BID based upon rateable values.
During the first year of the BID Steve Peters, the previous Town Centre Manager, led the Bid4Bury activities but left his position in November 2010 and was replaced by Mark Cordell who took up the post of Chief Executive on 7th February 2011 and remains in post to date.
The Board of Directors decided that for the 2nd term of the BID the threshold of the £10,000 rateable value level would remain (but the updated 2010 assessment would be used) and there was a slight realignment of the BID boundary.
On April 1st 2015 the second term of the BID in Bury St Edmunds commenced and on that day there were 446 different businesses within the BID and this included 23 who are not obliged to become members but who have chosen to do so as they see the benefits of membership.
The current BID term lasts until 31st March 2020 and there is a legal requirement for a renewal ballot process to be carried out before this date and this will occur during November 2019. Should that renewal ballot be successful then a third BID term would commence on 1st April 2020, lasting for five years.
There are legalities to be followed and this will include providing opportunities to liaise and consult with all business eligible to vote in the ballot. There will be decisions to be made in regards of the levy to be paid by each business, the priorities to be focussed upon during our 3rd five year term and the production of a business plan.
The current BID business plan (pdf version is available to read or download here or a hard copy can be obtained from the BID offices) as a consequence of a consultation process with our members, a decision was made to retain the six key priority areas that were in the original business plan in 2009 and these are Marketing, Safety and Security, Christmas Lights, Environment, Events and Business Support. Outlined below is a brief summary of all the activity that has been delivered by the BID in Bury during the past 9 years.
This was the number one priority when members were consulted prior to the BID ballot in 2009 and specifically for the marketing strategy to have a town centre business perspective. In late October 2011 the ourburystedmunds brand and the website was launched.
All BID members have a listing on the ourburystedmunds website and have the ability to promote their businesses via this site. Additionally, Cubiq Design, who are the creative design partners of the BID, provides a comprehensive social media portfolio with a particular focus upon Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We also have a YouTube channel where videos we have commissioned are available. We are very proactive in utilising the benefits of social media to promote the town, our events as well as individual businesses, The twitter handle used to do this is @ourburysteds More business related information is tweeted via @BID_Ourburystedmunds and the Chief Executive can also be followed on @Mark_ourbseBID, as can our Business and Marketing and Support Officer on @Mike_ourbseBID. In total these four accounts have approaching 15,000 followers.
The BID also has a Facebook page and Instagram account in the name of “ourburystedmunds”
At the same time the BID produces a pocket sized retail map of the town, where every BID business is listed. These have been circulated both in Bury and beyond. The retail map has been reproduced on 20 occasions, to date, with over 200,000 copies distributed in total since the first edition.
We are currently reviewing the content of the website to ensure that they are maximising the development within digital technology for the benefit of our members and the public who utilise them.
Throughout the life of the BID there has been regular coverage of the BID, our town and its members in the local newspapers, magazines and on Radio Suffolk, RWSfm and Zackfm.
The CEO is a regular guest on the RWSfm Mid-Morning Show.
Over the life of the BID these media partners have been extended to include Town 102fm in Ipswich and Star Radio in Cambridge to ensure that even more people are aware of all that Bury town centre has to offer. The BID, the town, and some of the events and services we provide have featured on local television stations, Sky News and the BBC News channel. We have also featured in many national publications such as the Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday to raise the profile of the town and what it has to offer to a national audience. The BID Directors have monthly columns in the Bury Free Press and the Bury Mercury as well as being featured in a variety of other local and regional magazines.
The BID has also negotiated, with many of these media organisations as well as others, discounted charges for our members, should they wish to advertise with any of them.
Since 2017 all BID members are automatically listed, at no extra charge, on the Bury St Edmunds and Beyond website. This is the official tourism brand of the town and an organisation that is funded by both the public and private sector
Safety and Security
BID businesses are offered the opportunity to have a “Shop Safe” digital radio at a reduced cost and a rejuvenated town centre exclusion scheme for persistent offenders was launched in 2014. The CEO is also the Chair of the town’s Shopwatch scheme. We also liaise regularly with the local Safer Neighbourhood Team.
The BID works with other partners to support the Pubwatch and the Town Pastors schemes, including making financial contributions to projects or initiatives that benefit our members who trade within the Night Time Economy.
The BID owns all the Christmas Lights that until 2010 were previously the responsibility of the Town Centre Management Company and Bury Town Council.
Apart from the Arc, where the lights are provided by their Management Company, the BID is the only other organisation that is responsible and financially supports the Christmas Lights within the town centre. Since 2011 the number of lamp post affixed Christmas lights has more than doubled to ensure that the coverage of Christmas lights is across the BID area, which was not previously the case.
The BID also negotiates the provision of two “real” Christmas Trees which are located within the Traverse and on Angel Hill. In 2018 these were supplied by the Rougham Estate.
The existing lights including the cross street and fixed building lights have all been updated with environmentally friendly LED lights to ensure that for the 7 week trading period, where the lights are on, that the town is looking at its most festive and attractive.
The BID is always reviewing the Christmas Lights and looking to upgrade and expand coverage wherever possible but always ensuring the best value for money for our members.
The BID works closely with the Waste Management Team at the Borough Council and has provided limited funding to partnership projects such as the provision of some additional litter bins, new cigarette butt disposal units and also disposal units for chewing gum that can be so costly to be removed if dropped on the pavement.
Additionally, since 2011 the BID has funded extra floral displays in the BID area to further enhance the appearance of the town centre. This is in partnership with Bury in Bloom and is in addition to the contribution made by the Town Council.
This arrangement has developed positively and from now over 200 floral displays are funded by the BID for the whole year.
The BID has joined with partner organisations to contribute to other environment related projects that enhance the environment of the town such as the new “welcoming road signs” in 2013 and the statue of the wolf on the Southgate Street roundabout.
The BID also provides a free Graffiti Removal service for any of their members.
The BID Board of Directors see the delivery and promotion of events in the town centre as a key way of attracting additional visitors into the town both at these specific events but also as return visitors in the future once they have seen what the town centre has to offer.
Our Events Manager, Jackie Regan, arranges three large events, each year namely the Whitsun Fayre over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, the Food and Drink Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend and the Christmas Lights Switch on event on the penultimate Thursday before the Christmas Fayre (organised by the Borough Council). In addition, we celebrate St Georges Day, Independents Week (in the first week of July), our Festival of Sport and St Edmunds Day. Previously we have also provided support and funding for events such as the St John’s Street Fayre, the Motorsport Show and the Churchgate Showcase.
We have created websites pages for each of our events and a specific festivals website for the town where we promote events delivered by the BID but also those delivered by other organisations such as the Christmas Fayre over the last weekend in November. The address of this website is www.burystedmundsfestivals.com.
During 2015, in partnership with Bury in Bloom we created the highly successful Wolf Trail and in 2018 we worked with the My WiSH charity at the hospital in delivering the WW1 trail. Both of these involved the creation of works of art, by local artists that were located around the town. In 2019 we will be working with the Theatre Royal, to celebrate their 200th birthday by hosting a Star Trail in the town centre.
The BID organised a for a real ice rink to come to Bury in December 2015 which was located in Charter Square but unfortunately due to increasing temperatures in December it has not been practicable to bring this attraction back to town.
The purpose of all of these events is to attract more visitors into the town and to raise the profile and reputation of the town as an excellent visitor attraction.
Wherever possible there is no charge for our events as we want those who attend to spend their money with our businesses.
The BID employs a Business Support Officer (Mike Kirkham) whose role is to provide day to day contact with our businesses and offering hands on advice about marketing, social media and general help, support, advice and guidance. In addition, we hold networking events, formal and informal meetings for businesses to interact with the Board of Directors and our officers as well as providing information about new innovative initiatives that can help them increase their profits.
We also provide training events for our businesses with accredited providers, on subjects as varied as first aid, fire safety, social media, food safety and preparation and window dressing and these are invariably free of charge for BID members. In 2018 over 200 employees of our members attended our free training events.
The BID is a member of the Bury Chamber of Commerce, who are now affiliated to the Suffolk Chamber and vice versa.
We have had a footfall camera installed in Abbeygate Street, since November 2012 to monitor how busy the town is.
People & Places carry out Benchmarking exercises for us to see how we compare with other similar towns and to seek the views of visitors and residents regarding how the town centre can be improved.
The issue of the availability and flexibility of car parking and pricing has been a key issue for our members and during our first term the BID managed to persuade the Borough Council (who manage the off road car parks) to practically freeze car parking charges since 2012 and introduce the “free from 3 parking” every Tuesday since May 2013. The on-street parking (run by the County Council) is also part of the “free from 3” scheme and we successfully persuaded them not to introduce a charge after 6pm that had been proposed in late 2013.We have also been a participating consultee in a car parking review that the Borough Council carried out in 2014/15. The position of the BID is we want more flexible parking facilities to enable people to stay and enjoy all that the town has to offer for as long as they wish without feeling under pressure to get back to the car park. We are delighted that the concept of a “pay on exit” structure is being considered as well as utilising the opportunities that up to date technology can offer.
We are also always looking for ways in which we can save our members money and have a partnership with BCR Associates in enabling our members to get their utilities and phones at a cheaper rate and we have also linked up with Affinity, which is part of the Anglia Farmers Purchasing Group who should be able to enable our members to achieve savings on any products or purchases they need to make for their businesses. Neither of these arrangements cost our members anything and are just further examples of the free services the BID provides for our members.
All of the above is just a summary of some of the things we do for our businesses. In short, the role of the BID is to do whatever we can and whatever our businesses want us to do to enable them to improve their businesses and continue to trade during the current difficult but hopefully improving economic environment.
Bury St Edmunds, as a town, is performing well and compares very favourably with similar towns both locally and nationally and long may this continue but 2018 was a difficult trading year and 2019 is likely to be the same so it is imperative that BID lobbies on behalf of our members and does all it can to support and assist them.
Should you want to know anything more about us then please don’t hesitate to contact Chief Executive Mark Cordell at: 2nd Floor, 2 Woolhall Street, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 1LA 01284 766258 firstname.lastname@example.org