Stornoway could become a ‘Business Improvement District’ (BID) with businesses leading the way in “enhancing the viability and vibrancy” of the Town Centre – it proposed at Monday’s Stornoway Regeneration Meeting.
And now a further meeting is to take place next week to discuss the possibility of following the route taken by other towns, such as Oban, where businesses have a voice together, and a budget to spend.
Revenues would be raised through a a compulsory levy – and funds can also be secured from organisations such as the council and Highlands and Island Enterprise. The BID would be developed and managed by the private sector – and voted on by every eligible business – if successful every business within the area would have to pay in.
More than ten Stornoway businesses were represented at the regeneration meeting – and heard a presentation by Project manager of the BID4OBAN, Pauline Cameron. Ms Cameron explained: “BID is a flexible financial model that allows businesses to invest collectively... targets specific issues identified through consultation and includes no free loaders as all eligible businesses are obliged to contribute.”
She said it would empower businesses to “make some of the improvements they want to see and gives a voice for businesses in town.”
She did warn that it can be a long process entailing planning and good communications to work.
She added: “In Oban it was recognised that the council can’t fix everything.”
In Oban the all businesses with a rateable value property of £3,000 of over within the BID boundary will have to contribute between £2.90 per week up to £96.15 per week (depending on a rateable value range).
There the money will be used to do up shop fronts, arrange more events such as music festival and employ town ambassadors (among other ideas targeting problems highlighted through the consultation process).
Business would have to vote to accept the BID once plans have been drawn up.
However some present at the meeting did question the idea of having to pay more. One local business man stated that they are already paying council rates and asked: “Is it just to get more money out of businesses?”
But Ms Cameron insisted that the advantage of the scheme is that “you’re doing it collectively” and pointed to the additional investment of £100,000 added by Argyll and Bute council in Oban.
Overall businesses at the meeting did indicate an interest in finding out more about the process – and the Comhairle’s Development Department has arranged for a further meeting for interested parties on Thursday 7th May, date and time to be confirmed.