Edinburgh city centre: Businesses urged to vote for five more years of improvement initiatives
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City centre businesses are voting on whether to continue with the Business Improvement District, which sees them pay a levy to finance extra initiatives on top of council services.
The arrangement, which dates back to 2008, raises around £1 million annually to pay for activities such as movie nights in St Andrew Square with the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the "Clean Team" which carries out targeted extra street cleansing.
The Business Improvement District (BID) covers Princes Street and the New Town and businesses and organisations within that area have to be balloted every five years on whether they want it to continue. Ballot papers have been issued and voting closes on March 23.
Roddy Smith, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, the company established to run the BID's activities, is keen that all eligible businesses take part in the ballot. He said: “We want everyone who qualifies to vote to do so. It is important that we are as representative of the area’s businesses as possible, and that we have a strong mandate for our plans."
Priorities identified in the plan for the next five years include championing business rates reform; ensuring the voice of businesses is heard on the George Street redesign project; improving the cleanliness of the city centre, and increasing the attractiveness of the area through the use of high-quality seasonal street dressing, with a sparkling Christmas a particular focus; and continuing to tackle homelessness and begging through the Navigator project, run in partnership with the Cyrenians, which pays for an outreach worker to engage with rough sleepers.
Hannah McConnachie, development manager of the Signature Group, said the BID had been a huge help to restaurants and bars recovering from the pandemic. "Post-Covid the hospitality industry suffered massively so Essential Edinburgh with a campaign 'Eat Out Edinburgh' which was great for the venues – they saw great drive in footfall. It wasn't just locals who started to come out again, it was all the out-of-towners as well."
Lynzi Leroy, chief executive of the Scottish Design Exchange, praised the Clean Team initiative, which operates 6am-8.30pm and also has a rapid response unit. She said: "There are some really disgusting things that happen in George Street over the weekends and when you come in on Monday morning it's not very pretty. They are just so great – they come along and you wouldn't know anything was there once they have left."
Alan Thomlinson, retail manager at Johnnie Walker Princes Street, said: "The work Essential Edinburgh has done over the last 15 years has really helped the city centre. Without Essential Edinburgh, people would miss everything Essential Edinburgh does for this city."