Retailers and councillors have differing views on scheme’s success
CITY councillors and traders have clashed over Canterbury’s Business Improvement District (BID) at a meeting. Businesswoman Lynn Brown, speaking on behalf of the Canterbury Independent Traders Alliance (CITA), said the changes the BID had made in the months since being created were “superficial” and had “not increased footfall in the city centre”.
The Business Improvement District in Canterbury charges businesses In Canterbury City Centre some 1.5 per cent more business tax, in exchange for a range of services to make the area more attractive. The most visible of these so far have been the city’s Christmas Lights, cancelled in 2013 due to a lack of funding but brought back In 2014 thanks to money raised by the BID. But, according to one upset local trader, some businesses didn’t even get that.
Rose Neil, the owner of Elite Beauty on Orange Street, said that, despite paying her extra 1.5 per cent, her street had been left in darkness, with no lights on it, and accused Mr Jones personally of making fun of her.
“When I pointed this out to Bob Jones, he turned and pointed out the window of my shop, to some of the lights down the road. Then he laughed at me, In front of my staff and customers. I am not going to pay for the BID for the next five years.”
The Business Improvement District is due to run for three more years, before businesses can vote to keep it, or abandon it. The BID area encompasses every business within the city wall and ring road, as well as part of St Dun- stan’s Street and Northgate. Speaking at a meeting of the Canterbury Area Members Panel (CAMP), Bob Jones, the manager of Canterbury Connected, who is running the BID, said his group would “move heaven and earth” to convince sceptical businesses they were worthwhile.
“It’s divisive, we know. There Is much still to do and it is up to us to convince people.”
Mr Jones also offered a public apology to Ms Neil for any offence he may have caused during a recent visit to her shop. He also said that more than half the funds raised by the BID came from the biggest chains and traders in the city, compared to 3 per cent levied from the smallest businesses.
During the meeting, he quoted a lot of figures that appeared to refute CITA’s claims that the BID wasn’t having an effect, with footfall in Whitefriars up 4.4 per cent on last year and plans for floral displays and street ambassadors to be funded by the BID in 2015. In a vote last year; 64 per cent of local businesses voted in favour of establishing a BID, from a turnout of 54 per cent. Alex Perkins, a city councillor and BID business owner himself, urged other businesses to “pull together” to make the BID a success.
“We are now in the BID. We are where we are. This is democracy”
Cllr Perkins also congratulated Mr Jones on “the best Christmas lights I have ever seen” but, taking Ms Neil’s criticism on board, urged Canterbury Connected to include all the streets in the area next time.
“This scheme will only work if It Is inclusive. Next year, can all of the streets get involved in this?”
Other businesses have also thrown their support behind the BID. Ian Blackwell, the landlord of the Jolly Sailor pub, sits on the BID’s board, with several other independent business owners.
“I think the BID has shown great value, despite only starting a couple of months ago. The deep street cleaners are working every day, giving the whole city centre the once-over, and of course, there were the Christmas lights. The next thing we have com ing Is Canterbury in Bloom, which should see some beautiful flower baskets all around the city, to draw shoppers in. If it increases footfall and gets people through the doors of businesses, then everyone should win out in the end.”
Herne Bay Times, January 21st 2015