At our February West of England Initiative meeting over 180 members heard from a number of the city region’s key figures, including Jo Hawkins, who presented on the exciting and now well-advanced plans for a new Business Improvement District (BID) for the Redcliffe & Temple Quarter of Bristol.
The aim of this new BID is to be inspirational and sustainable and improve this area by making it a more welcoming place for businesses, employees, visitors and residents, and so further its reputation as a thriving commercial quarter and an outstanding community, which everyone is proud to be a part of.
For the less initiated, Jo explained the concept of BIDs, which involves business rate payers (i.e. occupiers) within a defined commercial area electing to pay between 1 and 4 percent of their rateable value on top of their business rates. These funds are then ringfenced and go directly to the BID management body, which in turn carries out the activities of business improvement following the agreed BID business plan across the areas of focus.
Common benefits that BID levy payers can expect to receive include waste and recycling collection improvements, enhanced marketing and promotion and improved street cleansing - but it is certainly not limited to just these things.
In order to come into effect a proposed Redcliffe & Temple BID (or indeed any other UK BID) requires 50% of businesses, representing 50% of the total rateable value of the area, combined to vote in favour of the proposal.
Redcliffe & Temple are now well established as the central business district for Bristol, and as well as benefits already mentioned, the aim is to build further on the great success of both the Broadmead BID and Bristol City Centre BID. Both of these have been set up and run by the Destination Bristol (DB), a partnership company of Business West Initiative with Bristol City Council. And DB is the BID proposer for this one too which enables the city to have the best of the public and private sectors working together.
Jo explained that they are two great examples of why business should vote in favour of a BID for Redcliffe & Temple. The Broadmead BID, which was established back in 2005 prior to Cabot Circus and each year receives currently about £305,000 per from levy payers and earlier in its existence was for example able to raise £11m in additional leveraged finance from the developers of Cabot Circus to enable the pedestrianisation and improvement of Broadmead. Then the Bristol City Centre BID, which is a substantially larger and more recent development as it commenced in 2017 – also has a very impressive track record of success, supporting business and making things happen. Jo showed a short video which showcased these various successes, including throughout 2020 and 2021 stepping up to significant challenges caused by the global pandemic. These include getting huge global media coverage for the events and activities it has run for Bristol.
Jo presented impressive statistics showing the huge economic impact Bristol City Centre and Broadmead BIDs have had on Bristol, and reiterated that the proposed new BID was really a unique opportunity to bring together two adjoining but very different areas of our city to create a compelling offer to those living, working and visiting this central part of the city.
The BID business plan has put the following four areas of focus at its core:
- Creating and maintaining quality spaces
- Improving sustainability and the environment
- Creating & promoting a more vibrant place
- Building a safe and caring community
Postal ballots will be going out to business rates payers and voting will be open between 18th March and 15th April 2021. Jonathon Bower, Partner of Womble Bond Dickinson and a member of the Redcliffe & Temple BID Advisory Board, strongly urged and encouraged members located in these areas such as Arcadis to vote YES – he explained that both local and national evidence shows will further help deliver social value back into the community and to strengthen ties between businesses located there.
On the subject of place, David Carter, Director of Infrastructure at West of England Combined Authority (WECA), spoke about the progress of WECA on a new Mass Transit Network serving the West of England.
The key benefits for the region that a mass transit network would bring said David are improved productivity, reduced carbon emissions and attracting inward investment.
He continued to reiterate that WECA are ‘modallly agnostic’ and that various modes of transportation were under consideration for the region to realise the mass transit vision. Furthermore, that the question of how to connect existing transport nodes were very much at the forefront of WECA’s thinking, as was connecting urban and rural locations. David made clear that whatever proposals came forward they would undoubtedly involve there being less cars on the roads.
Roughly 40% of carbon emissions produced in the region are from motor vehicles he said highlighting the transformational impact a mass transit system would have for the West of England in terms of reaching net zero carbon emissions targets. This is the first presentation WECA had made on these proposals at this stage but is part of a process of engagement towards the authority and its partners developing the necessary ‘strategic outline business case’ to put forward to central government.
Bristol Chamber & Initiative Chief Executive James Durie updated members on a variety of infrastructure and place related activities that he and the Business West Initiative team are currently engaging on, including the Great Western Free Port proposals and a Clean Air Zone for Bristol. James also made mention of the upcoming West of England Mayoral elections and outlined Business West Chamber & Initiative’s plans to issue a business manifesto to the candidates.
A survey has been distributed to businesses across the region for their input regarding what they’d like to see in the manifesto said James, noting the 12th February cut-off date for members yet to complete it.
In addition to the manifesto, James announced that the Initiative has partnered with the Centre for Cities to host a Metro Mayor hustings event in April. Details will follow.
Elsewhere there were updates from Business West Director of Policy Matt Griffith on Brexit and Bristol City Council Public Health Consultant Sally Hogg, who updated members on COVID infections rates in the city, vaccination progress and also spoke about the so-called ‘Bristol variant’ identified by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier in the week.
Sally reassured businesses that Bristol City Council is working closely with Public Health England and central government to assist with its variant surveillance programme. It is due to the strength of this partnership and the monitoring capabilities of the UK government that the variant was picked up she said.
As regards testing, Sally made mention of the rapid testing centre which has opened up near Cabot Circus for employees who cannot work from home to get tested twice a week. Anyone who is interested in rapid testing should get in contact with the Bristol City Council Public Health team: email@example.com
To bring the session to a close, the speakers took questions from the 150 strong audience before a brief period of networking to finish for those who were able to stay.
The next West of England Initiative meeting is on Thursday 4th March 11.30am -1pm via Zoom and invites will be circulated in due course.