Edinburgh businesses urge promotion of city centre for post-pandemic recovery

A five-year draft plan to support city-centre businesses was launched today by Essential Edinburgh, the company which runs the Business Improvement District.

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Top priority is ensuring the city centre is promoted to encourage the return of local, national and international visitors, seen as vital to a successful post-pandemic recovery.

And Essential Edinburgh said it would support the creation of “new structures” to promote the city, working with others to maximise impact.

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Businesses in the city centre will vote next year on whether to renew the BID, which sees them all paying a levy to invest more than £1 million a year in local improvements on top of services provided by the council.

Other priorities proposed in the 2023-2028 draft plan include championing business rates reform; ensuring the voice of businesses is heard on the redesign of George Street, including arguing for support and compensation for affected businesses; and improving the cleanliness of the city centre and increasing the attractiveness of the area through high-quality seasonal street dressing, with a sparkling Christmas a particular focus.

It would also continue to tackle homelessness and begging through the Navigator project run in partnership with the Cyrenians.

The plan, compiled after initial consultation with member businesses, is now the focus of a wider consultation ahead of the renewal ballot, which closes on March 23 next year.

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Essential Edinburgh says promotion of the city centre is vital to bring back visitors. Picture: Esme Allen.

Essential Edinburgh chief executive Roddy Smith said: “Our initial consultation with member businesses through a business survey has identified the key priorities, and we will be continuing to consult until September this year to refine and improve the plan.

“But it is already clear that businesses see positive, effective and professional promotion of the city centre as absolutely vital to a healthy recovery from the huge impact of the pandemic.

"The cost of doing business is also an issue, in particular they are keen to see greater fairness in business rates charged. For example, retailers and leisure operators pay significantly more for a presence in the city centre compared to out-of-town retail parks, which encourage people to travel to them by car. Our members need greater parity.

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“Our members also want to see us continue to advocate for them in relation to other issues, such as the George Street Redesign Project, and they want us to continue to deliver a cleaner city centre through the work of our Clean Team, and to enhance the city centre with attractive lighting and street displays at Christmas and other times.

“We are keen that as many eligible city centre businesses take part as possible in the consultation process to ensure the final plan is robust, informed and appropriate.”

Essential Edinburgh said the BID would also continue to use its collective bargaining power to reduce key operational costs for city centre offices create a greener city through its waste management and recycling work.

And it pointed to achievements over the past five years including the BID marketing campaign which saw retail sales 1.5 per cent above the Scottish average, with footfall up 9.8 per cent month-on-month; a 66 per cent drop in recorded crime; 179 homeless people helped into accommodation; 628,100 kilograms of litter collected by the BID Clean Team and 900 tonnes of CO2 saved from landfill disposal through its waste management scheme.

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Mr Smith said: “We’ve delivered a range of initiatives to support business growth and ensure our area is a leading place to visit, work and do business. In the next five years we want to do more for the area and for our member businesses.”

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