Two more city areas up for business improvement plan

Jos Bastiaensen of Helios Fountain, pictured with fairy shop assistant Jenna
Jos Bastiaensen of Helios Fountain, pictured with fairy shop assistant Jenna
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Businesses in the Grassmarket and South Queensferry could be the next to be charged towards measures to improving the surrounding streets.

Two separate ballots of all businesses in both areas are to take place in the spring to see if they are willing to set up a “business improvement district” (BID).

If approved by a majority of firms, every business would be charged – possibly through an additional levy on top of their business rates – to fund projects to benefit the area.

The Grassmarket scheme is likely to fund extra events and markets for the area, as well as better promotion and transport links, while the South Queensferry project would be likely to focus on how the area can capitalise on trade from passing cruise ships, and getting more young people into work.

A city centre BID is already operational, having been backed by businesses in a 2008 ballot. It has faced criticism for not being effective enough, although a restructure that cut operating costs has been carried out.

Jos Bastiaensen, director of gift shop Helios Fountain and a member of the Grassmarket Area Traders Association, which has supported the creation of a BID, said: “We do not want to become The Gyle; it is quirky retailers selling things that you don’t get elsewhere and we should add to that with entertainment and markets, and it would be useful to have better transport links and also to market the Grassmarket so that people know what is here.”

If approved by businesses, two formal companies would be set up to run the new BIDs, made up of representatives of local businesses.

Roddy Forfar, chairman of the “Queensferry Ambition” BID and managing director of local firm Aquarius Contact Centres, said: “There are a number of cruise ships at the moment and we are not harnessing that business as well as we ought to be.”

Action plans showing what could be done in both areas if the BIDs are approved are due to be drawn up before the spring ballots. The cost to companies is still to be finalised.

City leaders are also considering whether a city-wide BID could be introduced to raise money for the work of Marketing Edinburgh.

Ian Davison Porter, project director of Business Improvement Districts Scotland, said: “The emphasis of the BID has to be delivering projects and services for the businesses.”

Councillor Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “The council supports the work of all of the BIDs in the city as part of a wider vision for Edinburgh to drive up footfall and encourage vibrancy in the high streets.”