Norwich BID calls for business support as it aims to expand

PUBLISHED: 06:32 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:01 29 March 2017

Tunnel of Light on Hayhill, Norwich. Samantha Skouros and her daughter Betty enjoying the lights.

Tunnel of Light on Hayhill, Norwich. Samantha Skouros and her daughter Betty enjoying the lights. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

A new scheme to pump £5m into re-energising Norwich city centre, attract more tourists and help businesses to thrive is appealing for public support.

Stefan Gurney executive director of Norwich BID. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Stefan Gurney executive director of Norwich BID. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) has drawn up plans to expand the area it covers as its five-year deal comes up for renewal.

The BID lobbies for business and promotes the city as well as running initiatives which encourage visitors to the city and improve their experience.

If the deal gets the go-ahead, it will cover a much wider area and take in 741 levy-paying businesses, up from the current 666.

The BID is hoping to build on projects such as the Tunnel of Light which drew visitors to the city around Christmas, and the City Hosts scheme, who provide advice and directions to Norwich newcomers.

Head Out Not Home for the free street entertainment in Norwich. Groovapolitan entertain with their music at Gentleman's Walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYHead Out Not Home for the free street entertainment in Norwich. Groovapolitan entertain with their music at Gentleman's Walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, said: “This is an exciting time for the BID and we really want businesses to engage with us and to help shape our future vision for the benefit of Norwich.

“Our aim is to make a clear positive impact on the vitality of the city centre and the success of the businesses within it.”

The BID has set out three key areas for its renewal. They are Promoting Norwich – raising the city’s profile; Norwich Experience – creating a vibrant atmosphere; and Voice for Business – fighting for the needs of the firms in its remit.

The body is funded through a 1% levy of the rateable value of each business over £30,000 in the BID area.

The current and proposed Norwich BID areas. Graphic: Rob McVicar.The current and proposed Norwich BID areas. Graphic: Rob McVicar.

The BID ballot will run from June 30 to July 27 and a series of open meetings will be held to hear ideas from businesses and the public and explain what the BID can offer.

They will be held as follows: at Las Iguanas, Riverside, at 8.30am, 1pm and 5.30pm on Wednesday, with the second on Thursday at intu Chapelfield at 8.30am and 11am. The third set will be on Friday at South Hall, Dragon Hall, from 9am, 1pm and 4pm.

What is the BID?

Norwich BID is an organisation set up in 2012 to support businesses, improve the experience of visitors to the city centre and promote Norwich to a wider audience through national campaigns and projects.

At the time 79% of the 1,133 businesses consulted voted in favour of it, with 666 levy payers.

What has the BID achieved?

Among its successes, the BID can count the festive Tunnel of Light, investing £400,000 in Christmas lights, the Discover Norwich App, which has been downloaded 18,000 times, and the increased footfall in the city centre from 2014 to 2016.

It also launched the City Hosts scheme, which sees volunteers offer advice and assistance to visitors, and the Head Out Not Home campaign, which saw a 7% increase in footfall on Thursday evenings during the summer.

Other achievements include lobbying for changes to park and ride services, supporting the Norwich in 90 rail campaign and commissioning murals in Ber Street, Theatre Street, Red Lion Street and Castle Street.

What does it hope to do in the next five years?

While the BID wants to hear from its members, some early ideas include providing funding for national marketing campaigns, increased Christmas lights coverage, a wider area for free Wi-Fi coverage, as well as supporting businesses through cost saving and crime reduction.

Who pays for it?

The BID raises funds through a levy which sees businesses contribute 1% of their rateable value if it is over £30,000.

Rateable value is a notional rent used to calculate business rates based on what a property might be expected to cost on the rental market.

For the previous five year term the BID raised £3m and it is expecting to raise £5m in the next five years.

What do businesses want from the BID?

While the BID is asking for businesses to get in touch with their ideas and desires, it has carried out a state of Norwich survey.

Among the issues raised were roadworks, car parking, public transport, signage, rough-sleepers and pedestrianisation.

Do new businesses want to join?

With the increased area the Norwich BID would take in more businesses and new parts of the city – but do they want to join?

Gym-owner Ross Lenton, who runs the Ber Street Hub as well as Dynamic Fitness, said he was keen to be involved. He said: “We are very much keen to be part of a BID which will extend out.

“With pedestrianisation work being carried out there will be good access to Ber Street from the city centre. It is early days but it would be great to be involved with Christmas lights and if we are able to get Ber Street, past or present, featured on some of the tourism leaflets and maps that would be fantastic.”

Eric Kirk, chairman of the Magdalen Street and Anglia Square Traders’ Association, said he was due to find out more soon but the initial feeling from the committee was sceptical with concerns businesses could be paying for projects which would take footfall away from Magdalen Street.

Has the BID been value for money?

Last year’s Christmas lights remain bright in the memory but have businesses seen the benefit of the BID?

Sara Sweet, owner of Dove Street jeweller Sonkai, said: “I thought the lights at Christmas were nice and if they increased footfall then that is good.

“On a personal level, as a business, we are not any better off than we were a few years ago.

“I know the BID is responsible for the city hosts, which is good if you are visiting, and for some of the murals which are nice.

“A lot of people aren’t making any effort to make things look nice because they don’t have the money so it is good if the BID is able to do those things.

“It doesn’t cost me a lot so I would say it is certainly value for money.”

Miriam Devlin, director at DIY store Thorns, said: “The Christmas lights and the tunnel of lights made a difference this year but during the rest of the year I don’t see much more benefit.”

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