Businesses in Halifax town centre are being asked to consider voting for a small increase in business rates in order to set up a Business Improvement District (BID).
The BID sets aside a pot of money to pay for improvements to the the look and feel of the town centre from introducing hanging baskets and improved cleaning to outdoor events and street festivals.
Marketing Halifax and Calderdale Council will be consulting with town centre businesses to find what kinds of improvements they’d like to see and how much they’d be prepared to pay for them as a levy on business rates.
Tracy Harvey, managing director at Harveys of Halifax and member of Marketing Halifax, said: “This is great news and provides a unique opportunity for businesses to take a real role in shaping the future of the town and build upon the unique strengths of Halifax to make it an even better place to work, visit and have a business.
“The development of a BID in Halifax is a really exciting project. We have a wonderful town here with some great assets but we are not very good at shouting about them,” she said.
Angela Whiley, retail and market towns support officer at Calderdale Council, said:
“This isn’t about providing services that the council do as a statutory necessity, it’s about providing extra things that would not happen if that extra pot of money wasn’t available.
“It’s about a long-term vision for the town.”
If backed by local firms, the BID will be administered by a non-profit organisation which gives all businesses in the area an equal say on where the money is spent.
Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden), deputy council leader, said: “It’s time to look at enhancing and strengthening the retail and leisure offer in the town centre itself, and what better way to do that than in partnership with local businesses?
“The best way to do that is for the council to support the creation of a local Business Improvement District.
“It will enable us to work with businesses over a number of years in shaping the town centre, to enable them to shape their own priorities.
“Experience suggests this may be the way forward and we want to explore it,” he said.
Ms Whiley said: “We can put forward suggestions during the consultation, but the decision is with the businesses.
“There’s a higher percentage of votes to renew the BID than the original ballot - so businesses can clearly see the difference that has been made over that term.
“We want it to be business-driven: it’s their money, their voice. If you invest in this, it will invest in you.”
Marketing Halifax has employed the services of consultancy firm PFBB UK that specialises in developing BIDs.
Ian Ferguson, director of PFBB UK, said: “The BID ensures a sustainable way of creating a cohesive plan with funds to invest in the area that helps develop the town as a destination and as a great place to do business.
“If Halifax becomes a Business Improvement District, it will help future-proof the town centre, providing investment opportunities to improve the environment and encouraging visitors to the town centre.”
The go-ahead for the consultation was given cross-party backing at a meeting of the council’s Economy and Investment panel this week and have agreed to put aside £50,000 to cover the costs of the consultation and feasibility studies.
The consultation will last between 12 to 18 months, and will be conducted through meetings, workshops, forum and surveys so businesses can lead how the BID will function if adopted.
The first meeting for all businesses to learn more about the BID and how they can get involved over the next year, will be at the end of September.
The ballot for the BID will require the backing of half the individual businesses, plus half of the total ratable space must also back the BID, meaning that the vote itself will be skewed in favour of the larger retailers.
Although the size of the contribution will decided following the consultation, most BIDs see a levy between one and four per cent of business rates.
The BID has just adopted by Leeds city centre, and Manchester is currently consulting with business owners prior to a ballot.
If backed by businesses in Halifax, the BID will operate for five years from April 2017.