A Business Improvement District in Haverhill was first mentioned to me about three years ago, writes John Mayhew, acting chair of Heart of Haverhill.
In my joint roles within ONE Haverhill Partnership and Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, it immediately made sense to me. For those who don’t know, a BID is a Government scheme, where town centre businesses pay a levy based on the rateable value of their premises. That money creates a fund controlled by the businesses, which is used to promote and improve the town centre.
For most businesses, the cost is small. Larger businesses pay more, but the benefits are shared equally across the town. A BID gives businesses a common voice and a greater say in how their town centre can be improved.
Everywhere in the country, town centres are having a tough time. But nothing improves by doing nothing and there are more than 300 BIDs around the country, demonstrating that they work.
I fully expect some businesses to question a BID. But I have two questions for them – what ideas do you have to make Haverhill town centre a better trading environment and can you do it on your own? If you have some ideas, please talk to us and let’s see if we can do it together.
The campaign for a BID is being promoted by local business people and council officers under a ONE Haverhill Partnership task group known as Heart of Haverhill, who have been working together for 18 months.
In that time, we have successfully worked with Haverhill Town Council to attract more than 50 businesses to support the Haverhill Family Christmas Night and also improved communication around the vast array of events taking place in our town.
Improvements to Haverhill market remain ongoing but I think we all agree that we are a proud market town which can have knock-on benefits to town centre businesses.
A number of keys ideas have emerged including employing a town centre manager and helping businesses save cost by some centralised procurement.
The real beauty of it is that Haverhill businesses themselves would have the power to decide how their budget is spent.
To me, launching a campaign to run a Haverhill BID is a no-brainer and I am delighted that Heart of Haverhill has secured support and funding from West Suffolk Council.
Over the next few months, we will be canvassing local businesses – through one-to-one meetings, open events and trial votes – to explain to them what a BID is and how it can help them.
We want our businesses to be as informed as possible about the advantages of Haverhill having its own Business Improvement District.
Our plan is to then hold a vote in October where all businesses in the BID area will get a chance to say yes or no.
At the same time, we will be working for our businesses to support and promote plans for VE Day, the Women’s Tour and the next Haverhill Family Christmas Night.
Our message to businesses is – Back Haverhill BID.