We're backing the BID
Published 5 April 2017
Consultation has started about the proposed expansion of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), with its promoters promising a ‘Bigger, Bolder, Better Norwich’.
At a time when bricks and mortar retail is facing many challenges, including business rate revaluations and growing competition from online shopping, a proposal which involves businesses paying a levy equivalent to one per cent of their rateable value might seem a cost they could do without. But it’s exactly because of those increasing challenges that the BID is so vital.
The BID was launched in 2012 with a mission to be an inventive, energetic and progressive organisation to enhance and promote the city for business, employees, customers and the wider community.
In the five years since then, it has been very proactive in promoting the city, increasing footfall and creating a buzz in Norwich to support retailers in particular. Initiatives such as the Tunnel of Light, Discover Norwich app, social media campaigns and the creation of a team of city hosts have all been well received and effective.
No individual business can do this alone, and the BID is a good example of how collaborating, pooling resources and doing things professionally can bring benefits to everybody. If High Street retail is to fight back against online retailers operating on what some would regard as an uneven playing field, doing it together will be the only way it can succeed.
The new, bigger BID includes plans to promote the city as a conference venue, help to assist with the homeless problem which is a deterrent to visitors to the city, and enhance the Christmas Lights campaign to a Festival of Light.
The way the BID is structured also works well for our smallest businesses, because those operating from premises with a rateable value of less than £30,000 are exempt from the levy. Local independent traders are a huge part of what makes the city unique, but these kind of businesses can only have a real voice when they act collaboratively, as the successful Norwich Lanes initiative has shown.
There are an increasing number of BIDs in the UK, with ever more towns and cities realising that the levy which funds them should be viewed not as a cost, but as an investment which yields real returns for all. In our area, King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft are all benefitting from their own BIDs.
The current consultation is about extending the current Norwich BID for five more years, as well as widening its geographic reach. The result will be a £5 million fund to create a real vitality for our city centre and the businesses within it. Only if we work together can we truly fulfill the business potential of this wonderful city, and that is why we are backing the BID.
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