Businesses vote on bid to fund West End revival

A view along Shandwick Place. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
A view along Shandwick Place. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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Ambitious plans to revive the fortunes of the Capital’s West End by creating a new Business Improvement District (BID) have been launched.

More than 150 businesses have been invited to vote on whether to make the area a BID.

The proposals by the West End BID Steering Group aim to revive prosperity after a decline blamed on tram works and the financial crash.

Other issues cited include roadworks, parking restrictions, lack of investment and a “perceived lack of variety” on the high street.

If the BID finds favour, businesses would pay a compulsory levy going towards improved signage, marketing and cleaner streets.

Michael Apter, chairman of the steering group, said the BID aimed to return the area to its “former glory”, creating a “busy, vibrant and successful West End”.

The mission to promote the area has been put to 156 businesses across 20 streets and representatives have until June 25 at 5pm to vote.

Each business liable to pay the BID levy will be able to vote on whether the BID goes ahead.

It has been agreed that the levy will be based on rateable value of the property at the time of the ballot and throughout the BID’s five-year term.

The initiative will be focused on retail, service and hospitality businesses in the West End where it adjoins the neighbouring BID district of Essential Edinburgh, covering George Street and Princes Street.

The proposed improvements have come from ideas, surveys, consultations and discussions with the local businesses.

Among those supporting the BID is Murray Ward, general manager of the Rutland Hotel, who said it would deliver 
“pillars of growth”.

“Working together is the key for ongoing success to drive footfall and retain customers to benefit all businesses in the BID area,” he said.

There are 27 fully operational BIDs in Scotland, including Essential Edinburgh, Greater Grassmarket and Queensferry Ambition, and a further 22 in development.

However, the Greater Grassmarket BID, set up in February 2013 is among those which have so far failed to stop a “catastrophic” fall in visitor numbers. Last week, it announced plans to create a “Covent Garden-style” atmosphere of outdoor markets and entertainment to stop the rot.

But many businesses in the West End remain convinced that their BID can work.

Shireen Love, owner of Marina Rinaldi Diffusion on Stafford Street, said the West End has “lost its status and panache,” adding: “In order to attract people back we need to improve signage, add a real appeal to the area with plant containers, benches, and better and cheaper parking”.

Dale MacPhee, general manager of the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, Eleanor Cunningham, owner of the Edinburgh Larder Bistro and Peter Knight, owner of Teuchters and A Room in the West End, have all given their backing to the scheme.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com