Will the Bristol City Centre BID give businesses a boost?

Published on: 8th September 2016

A consultation is underway around the proposed Bristol City Centre Business Improvement District (BID), with businesses – both large and small - from across the city centre invited to share their views.

Mark Sheridan, head of our Bristol office discusses what effect the proposed BID might have on Bristol City Centre.

"This is not the first time that a BID has been proposed for the city, and there are established BIDs in Broadmead, the affluent suburb of Clifton Village, Gloucester Road and Bedminster suburbs, with their mix of students and professionals, as well as Cater Business Park. This means that many people in and around Bristol are familiar with the concept and understand the benefits that a BID can bring.

Businesses in Bristol have been generally receptive to the idea of a BID, but previous attempts were criticised for being too narrow in their scope and lacking ambition. In response to this, the latest Bristol City Centre BID proposal is the most ambitious to date, as it will include all sectors of business that operate in the city centre. It will also have the potential to deliver schemes up to a cost of £1.2million per year for five years.

The new BID will mirror more closely those in other key city centres across the UK including the recently approved BID in Cardiff, and has stated that its aim is to ensure that Bristol City Centre’s BID area is more welcoming, better promoted and effectively managed.

Being based at Queen Square, we at Sanderson Weatherall have had a close-up view of the BID team’s efforts to promote the consultation period and of course we have submitted our own response. Many businesses will by now have received promotional emails asking for input on the BID, and I hope that the consultation will encourage all Bristol businesses, of any size, to have their say.

Clear communication is an important aspect of the BID process. We have seen in other cities such as Liverpool, Leeds and Nottingham that buy-in from a broad spectrum of businesses is vital to the success of the scheme.

In particular, the benefits of the BID need to be conveyed to small businesses, just as any policies need to be inclusive of those smaller concerns. After all, the implementation of the business improvement district would see an increase in one of small business’s highest costs – namely, business rates, so I am sure that many small business owners will feel very passionately. The BID team will need to be prepared to address these concerns and be clear on how the benefits of the BID will be shared by all businesses. After all, any company paying business rates within the area can consider itself as an investor in the initiative.

Some of the matters that the BID will focus on may seem small – such as improving street cleaning, for example – but positive changes like this can make a big difference in making Bristol a more welcoming city. At Sanderson Weatherall, we can also see clear benefits to having greater influence over planning and transport matters in our area. For the property market in general, we would like to see the BID help to build a forum for bringing vacant buildings in the city back into use.

As well as learning from the example of existing city centre BIDs, I also hope to see the BID team learning lessons from other Bristol based city-wide initiatives, such as the European Green Capital scheme. The legacy of the Green Capital should be a clear part of the BID as we need to ensure that we continue to work towards a more ‘green’ working and living environment.

Of course, Bristol is already thriving, with demand for office space high in the city centre and a raft of new businesses, particularly in the creative sector, moving into the city. The creating of a BID zone would allow all businesses in the city centre to have a stake in any improvements to the area, and would make Bristol more attractive than ever as a place to live and work. If it can fulfil these aims, and if it is well managed with stakeholder engagement at the centre of the BID’s operations, I think it would be a very positive step for the city."

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