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Business Improvement District Sees Almost £1m of Investment into Huntingdon

Exemplar Award Winner- Runner-up Citizen Award 2012: Huntingdonshire District Council

There are now more than 140 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Great Britain.

Acting as business partnerships between businesses, local authorities and other organisations, BIDs were created to develop projects and services that will benefit the trading environment within the boundary of a clearly defined geographic commercial area.

For Huntingdon, one of four market towns in Huntingdonshire, a BID was an opportunity for businesses to agree to an investment of almost £1 million over five years, a chance to see footfall increase, business performance improve and to make Huntingdon a more attractive, safer, cleaner and busier town.

It would also see the creation of a ‘Town Team’ with a dedicated BID Manager looking after their interests, with the businesses themselves responsible for ensuring that chosen projects were delivered.

With Huntingdon Town Centre facing increased competition as a retail and leisure destination, particularly from local towns, out-of-town retail parks and online shopping, the BIDs were recognised as a winning way to fund and manage additional projects in the town: projects that are over and above those that the public sector has to deliver.

How the project was carried out

Fundamental to the project was the accurate identification of properties where an eligible business was responsible for Business Rates (NNDR) within a geographical area. BID Huntingdon had an initial area and provisional list of properties and, as the LLPG was completely synchronised to the NNDR properties, it was used to work with the BID Huntingdon Manager and the council’s Economic Development and Business Rates Managers to identify precisely the final geographical BID area and all commercial properties within it.

Having the NNDR property reference linked to every BLPU enabled the spatial extraction of all commercial properties within the proposed area and also within a small buffer zone around it. This information was then shared with BID Huntingdon to enable a definitive area to be identified. Regular updates of the property list were produced to ensure that new properties and businesses were included, and demolished properties excluded.

The final list of properties was extracted at the beginning of October 2012 in readiness for the levy to be raised in November. By using the LLPG, it ensured that every property was included in the correct Revenue Administration Area and that those properties billed within a Schedule were also identified.

It was important for the project to also know the Organisation and Rateable Value, and these were attached to the data from Business Rates.

Outcomes

Within the BID Huntingdon office, a BID database had been created in January 2012 of all the businesses in and on the edge of the anticipated Huntingdon Town Centre area. This database, which was enhanced with the LLPG data intelligence, was used to list every interaction with the 369 businesses in that area.

After the work had been carried out, 308 eligible businesses had been identified: the reduction from the original 369 due to business closures, demolitions or the fact that certain businesses did not fulfil the eligibility criteria of a rateable value of more than £5,000. Offices of charities were also excluded, but not charity shops.

It was these eligible businesses, identified through the LLPG, that now provide five years of sustainable funding, allowing Huntingdon businesses to control a significant pot of levy income each year, spent by the businesses for the benefit of business.

The project demonstrates localism in action – businesses working to help themselves against the backdrop of a very difficult economic and financial climate.

Key benefits

• increased footfall in the Town Centre, leading to more sales

• increased profile of Huntingdon Town Centre, with a targeted marketing campaign attracting visitors, inward investment, and helping with staff recruitment and retention

• attractive and vibrant trading environment

• greater involvement in Huntingdon with a strong ‘voice’, a collective budget, and the weight and means to make things happen

• business to business marketing and networking opportunities

• a saving of up to £300 with FREE membership of Huntingdonshire Business Against Crime and the information sharing initiative on crime in Huntingdon

• improved management of the Town Centre through a BID Manager working exclusively for the BID levy payers

• reduced costs through collaborative marketing and the economies of scale that buying as a consortium can attract i.e. discounts on trade waste, insurance, recycling etc.

• sustained investment over a five year period

• a more cohesive Town Centre with all sectors represented and promoted

• a welcoming and positive experience for customers and those who work in the town

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