A meeting to discuss plans to boost Banbury town centre failed to attract much interest from those it might benefit.
A second public meeting was held on Wednesday, May 17, to discuss implementing a Business Improvement District (BID) in the town, yet despite concerns about the project raised at a similar meeting in March, just a handful of business owners turned up.
With an evening start it had been hoped that more managers and owners of the 450 business that would be included in the BID would have shown up at Banbury Town Hall but there was far less interest this time than at the midday meeting two months ago.
A lack of involvement by the majority of businesses that will be affected by the BID process has been apparent since the start. A feasibility study conducted by town centre advisory company Heartflood and sent out to all businesses within the proposed BID had a response rate of just 25 per cent or 115 replies. Of those 75 per cent were in favour of implementing a BID, which would see businesses pay a levy to be used to fund initiatives in the town centre.
At last week’s meeting to explain the BID process further were Steve Newman from Cherwell District Council, Nick Poole of Banbury Chamber of Commerce and Chris Gregory of Heartflood.
Mr Gregory told the Banbury Guardian that apathy among businesses was not uncommon at the start of a BID process.
He said: “Admittedly that is not a big proportion of those a BID represents. By previous experience though this should extrapolate up.”
On the agenda was to discuss what the BID should do for Banbury businesses and to get feedback on designs for the Banbury BID logo should the project be approved.
The schedule, however, was quickly dropped as local business owner Bernard Taylor voiced his disapproval of the BID process, specifically the lack of information about it, with a speech and a printed sheet of ‘facts’ about the BID.
Mr Taylor, who owns Baseline, said: “I think there are some significant benefits but what I hate is the fact that I only became aware of it three weeks ago.
“Trying to speak to the council is like asking someone to wake up when they’re dead.”
Among the issues creating some concern among the few business owners who had shown up was the suggested discount in the overall BID levy Castle Quay businesses will receive.
Although it is not a legal requirement it is a recognised standard within BIDs that retailers within shopping centres receive a discount, usually 25 per cent.
This is due to the fact that those retailers pay a surcharge for services the BID will provide to the other businesses but not those in a shopping centre.
Concern was raised that if this reduction was not offered, retailers within Castle Quay could vote no to the BID which could potentially scupper it.
Ken Gillett, who owns Sweet Sensations in White Lion Walk, said: “I still feel we are a bit held to ransom. It feels like we don’t have a choice but to let them have a discount.”
He added: “But I’m actually for the BID, I think the BID has got to be a good thing and I wanted it ten years ago.”
Further meetings, leaflet drops and info sessions are all planned before a ballot in October.
To find out more about the BIDcontact Chris Gregory of Heartflood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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