In 2015, Cheltenham voted to establish its own Business Improvement District (BID). Supported by Government, BIDs are business-led partnerships created through a ballot process to deliver additional services to local businesses.
Former journalist and editor Kevan Blackadder, was appointed Director of the Cheltenham Business Improvement District (BID). He looks back at its first year and reveal what’s ahead.
“We were the first BID in Gloucestershire and our vision is to make Cheltenham a more vibrant and prosperous town, where businesses flourish, and visitor numbers increase. 600 businesses make up the BID in the town centre and last year voted 72% in favour to pay a levy equivalent to 1.25% of their ratable value to help boost the town centre.
“That is generating around £450,000 per year – or £2.1 million over five years. We have to spend that money well or, when we ballot again in 2021, they will have every right to kick us out.
“As BID director, I’m supported by our operations manager Belinda Hunt and three part-time Ambassadors. Apart from that, we’re dependent on a volunteer board, made up businesses from independent retailers to nightclubs.
“We’ve successfully arranged discounted bus travel with Stagecoach for staff of town companies, introduced a scheme to save businesses thousands of pounds on utility bills, and run events including the first Cheltenham Cocktail Week, an independent boutique sale and a chilli fiesta.
“We also support major events. Without the BID, the Tour of Britain may not have come to town, Cheltenham Festival’s aroundtown venture at the Jazz Festival may not have gone ahead and the Midsummer Fiesta in Montpellier Gardens would have struggled financially.
“We plan to brighten up that bleak old month of February by lighting up landmark buildings across the town. Other new initiatives include a Beauty Week, food and drink tours and an awards ceremony to reward businesses and their staff for the great job they do for the town.
“There’s much more to come.”