Old Town considers business group to rival New Town

New special events could be held in the Old Town after traders were asked about establishing a Business Improvement District to help promote the area.

Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 9:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th January 2017, 9:30 am
The Greater Grassmarket Business Improvement District (BID)launched their first Food and Drink Week in November. Pic: Neil Hanna

The move has been prompted by the success of the BID run by Essential Edinburgh in the New Town.

And it would build on the existing Greater Grassmarket BID, expanding to include the Royal Mile, Chambers Street and Cockburn, Market and Jeffrey Streets.

Fawns Reid, chair of the Greater Grassmarket BID, said: “Essential Edinburgh has been so successful in the New Town I think we need something of similar weight for the Old Town.”

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The current Grassmarket BID will come up for renewal in February next year.

Ms Reid said: “I know there are people who are not supportive but there are people who are very positive about it as well. I think we probably would get a renewal.”

On the benefits of a BID, she added: “The main thing is we are a body which can speak to the council. The status of being a BID means we can do a lot more than just being a traders’ organisation which we were before.”

Norrie Stewart, project manager for the Grassmarket BID, said a ballot would require a 30 per cent turnout, with at least half of those voting supporting the proposal, before a BID could go ahead.

He said: “The whole concept of a BID creates a pool of money the local businesses may use to address issues they live with daily. Provided businesses take ownership of it, it can be quite powerful.”

City council economy convener Gavin Barrie will speak at a breakfast meeting for traders at the City Chambers tomorrow.

He said: “The BID group in the Grassmarket have public entertainment rights for the area so they can bring their goods out on a nice day and display them using a market-type area.

“That might also work for people in the Royal Mile. Sometimes people are reluctant to go into a shop but are quite happy to browse at a market stall.

“Essential Edinburgh is doing a fantastic job from making sure it’s clean and tidy to street decoration and making it an attractive place for everyone.

“In the competitive world we live in, it will do no harm for the Old Town people to promote their area in the same way.”

A BID involves a compulsory levy on businesses in the area to pay for initiatives like marketing and cleaner streets.

Charles Gibbons, owner of the Bow Bar and a critic of the Grassmarket BID, said the levy was “just another tax”.

He said: “They say they’re going to keep the streets clean and promote businesses in the area, which mostly amounts to street lighting and signage – and that’s what we pay council tax for. We certainly have not seen any benefit whatsoever.”

Victor Spence, co-chair of the Royal Mile Business Association, said: “There is a general view in the Royal Mile area that we have nothing to lose in supporting a feasibility study but that doesn’t mean we support a BID.”