Edinburgh’s West End firms sign up for BID scheme

West End businessman Grant McKeeman of Copymade Ltd with trams passing outside his shop a year on from the line opening. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
West End businessman Grant McKeeman of Copymade Ltd with trams passing outside his shop a year on from the line opening. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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STREET events, heritage trails and flower baskets are among the ideas being lined up to revive the West End as it continues its recovery from tram works.

The pledge comes after traders voted in favour of creating a Business Improvement District (BID) in a ballot which closed last week.

A total of 155 businesses were invited to take part – 96 businesses responded, with 51 per cent backing the plans.

Business owners – including those who opposed the scheme – will now pay a compulsory levy towards improved signage, marketing and cleaner streets. Steering group member Gail Niven, who owns Just G Boutique on William Street, said the money would fund a BID website plus events at “key times of the year”, including during the Fringe and over Christmas.

Cash will also be set aside for a Keep Scotland Beautiful assessment on how to improve the area’s appearance.

Streets may also be adorned with flower baskets similar to those on Shandwick Place, though all ideas will be discussed by the board before they are formally agreed.

Ms Niven said: “I can remember when this area was really vibrant and bustling and it has the opportunity to be that again.

“It was a go-to destination for people wanting to shop here.

“But the tram works had an impact on access to the area and a lot of people got out of the habit of coming here.”

She added: “I believe we are stronger together as businesses to drive that forward but there is no silver bullet to increase footfall instantly.”

It is expected that the BID scheme will raise £115,000 a year to invest directly back into the area.

Of the money raised, 40 per cent will go on marketing to “drive footfall”, while 20 per cent will go on “developing the area” itself.

Around 28 per cent will go on running the company managing the BID, including the recruitment of a part-time project manager.

The remaining 12 per cent has been set aside for “contingencies”.

West End Association chairman Michael Apter said the BID now had a “mandate” to execute a business plan to deliver “significant benefits” over the next five years.

He added: “We appreciate a significant minority of businesses did not vote for the BID, and acknowledge we need to work harder to persuade them their money is being spent wisely.

“The BID is an opportunity for businesses to work with their neighbours and colleagues to improve the West End and I would urge all businesses, no matter how they voted, to get involved with the BID in the future to ensure they see a benefit for their business.”

Describing the announcement as “great news for the area”, city economy leader Councillor Frank Ross said it sent out “a strong message” that BIDs help businesses to “collectively improve trading conditions”.

He added: “The yes vote will now help to deliver over £650,000 of additional investment over the next five years to the West End BID area to be spent on projects led and managed by the business community.”

The Capital has three other BIDs in operation – Greater Grassmarket, South Queensferry and Essential Edinburgh.

For a scheme to go ahead the ballot must be won on a straight majority and a majority of rateable value.

BIDs operate for a maximum of five years and after that there must be a fresh ballot.