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Sunday, 2 May 2010

A BID for Bath

TARA welcomes the news that efforts by our city centre manager, Andrew Cooper, to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) in the commercial heart of Bath seem likely to bear fruit.

In a BID the local business community agrees that a cleaner, brighter and safer environment is good for business and pools its resources so that more money can be spent on upgrading streets, pavements, lighting, signs and other infrastructure, on better street cleanliness and enhanced public safety. Obviously, though not subject to the BID levy on businesses, city centre residents and visitors can benefit significantly from the results.

The first BID was established in Canada more than thirty years ago and although the legislation to enable BIDs in the UK was not enacted until 2003 there are now close to 100 BIDs in operation in this country including thirty six in London alone.

Concerned at the meagre resources available to our city centre manager in Bath TARA carried out an on-line survey of similar operations in other parts of the country. This showed that the Bath public-private partnership, Future Bath Plus, is quite typical of similar organisations elsewhere, as is the role of our city centre manager which was described by one respondent as “a gadfly offering advice, pressure and encouragement where possible but living on wits rather than money.” This is fine but once administrative costs are taken care of there is typically little left for ‘projects’. To raise much needed funds many city centre managers across the country have BIDs or are actively preparing them.

In an era of impoverished councils a city centre BID in Bath offers perhaps the best hope of implementing the Council’s Public Realm and Movement Strategy, a complete transformation of the quality of our environment in the city centre of a kind which many comparable cities in the UK and, especially, on the continent completed many years ago. TARA supports the Public Realm and Movement Strategy (with qualifications) and, while it will be important to ensure that the particular concerns of residents are recognised, will do everything it can to encourage the city centre manager to persevere with the BID for Bath.

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