Wilmslow looks set to become the first town in Cheshire East to create a Business Improvement District (BID).
A BID is a defined area where business rate payers have voted in a ballot to pay a levy, in addition to business rates, into a fund for a fixed period (normally 5 years), and that levy is then managed to deliver specific agreed initiatives to benefit the BID area. The majority of BIDs are focused on town centres and BIDs have the potential to bring extra regeneration to a town.
The priorities for BID levy spend will depend on the exact detail of the final BID proposal but town centre BIDs might typically support such things as improving the general appearance of the centre, enhanced marketing and promotional activity, events to stimulate footfall, crime reduction initiatives, access initiatives and support for the business community.
There are currently around 324 BIDs across Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland, but none in Cheshire East at present. There are however a number in neighbouring authorities including: Manchester BID; Stockport Town Centre BID; Warrington Town Centre BID, Altrincham BID, and five BIDs in Cheshire West and Chester.
Cheshire East Council has received formal notification that Groundwork CLM, on behalf of the Wilmslow Town Centre Management Group, intend to submit a proposal for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Wilmslow Town Centre on or after 12 May 2022.
The Council will be responsible for holding a postal ballot on the BID proposal and if successful the authority will be responsible for collecting the BID levy on behalf of the BID. The initial costs are estimated to be in excess of £12,700 - which includes £5000 for the ballot, which it intends to outsource, and £7,700 for costs associated with updating software. Additionally, there would be the cost for collecting the levy, estimated to be in the region of £7,400 per year, and because Cheshire East owns properties, if the BID is successful it will have to pay the levy on those properties estimated to be £5,500 a year.
The Corporate Policy Committee discussed the proposal at their meeting on Thursday, 14th April.
Speaking about the benefits Cheshire East as an authority would get, Development & Regeneration Delivery Manager Jo Wise said "The general benefits are hopefully an enhancement to the vitality and viability of the town centre which aligns to our corporate plan and also many of our policies. More specifically I think it would be very dependant on the exact detail that's in the bid proposal. So for example, one of the issues being considered by the bid proposer is that they could do something to improve security in Wilmslow town centre in the evening. Now potentially that could have direct benefits for all sorts of businesses, whether it's the security of buildings and land we own that could have quite a direct beneficial impact for us."
Councillor Craig Browne proposed the recommendations. He said "Business Improvement Districts are frequently regarded as valuable additions to our town centres and town centres generally and of course help to support the general economy.
"Without wishing to predetermine the outcome of a final ballot, I do believe it is appropriate for this Council to facilitate such a process and to enable the Town Centre Management Group to progress its proposals. However, I also that the Council should seek to recover the costs associated with this."
Members of the Corporate Policy Committee voted unanimously in favour of the Wilmslow BID proposal.
Whilst the Wilmslow Town Centre BID proposal is still in development, the Council has been provided with draft proposals. These are subject to change until the BID proposal is finalised.
If the ballot is successful, the feasibility work provided to the Council projects that the BID could raise around £195,000 - £247,000 per annum in levy income for sole use by the Wilmslow Town Centre BID, although this will depend on the final BID proposal.
If the ballot is successful then even those businesses, if there are any, that voted against the BID would have to pay the levy.