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Byres Road BIDs for revival – the countdown

By on February 23, 2015

Byres Road traders are being urged to use their vote – with just three days left until the count that will determine if this area can become a Business Improvement District (BID).

The process began by the Visit West End – Byres Road BID steering group just over a year ago will reach another landmark when voting by more than 200 member businesses will close.

But for a once-thriving destination – still popular but struggling against a number of economic challenges – the group are hoping Wednesday, February 25 marks the start of a new era for Byres Rd. And that the empty shops and unused spaces are not left to stand as a symbol of the area’s eventual stagnation.

A BID is an initiative where businesses in a specified area work together to invest collectively in local projects and services that will re-energise their trading environment – and boost performance.

And if the Byres Road traders do vote to give the scheme the go-ahead then they will also open a door to potential additional funding and support, from Glasgow city council, the Scottish Government and even from Europe.

Visit West End – Byres Road BID steering group say their plans, also supported by the three community councils of Partick, Hillhead and Dowanhill, offer an opportunity that could benefit everyone who lives or works in this area.

Of course, Byres Rd is still a magnet for visitors, with the University of Glasgow and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum just a few of the attractions adding to this sense of vibrancy. For out of towners and for locals there are great pubs and restaurants plus a diverse mix of independent shops and national chains. And the Botanic Gardens sits like a floral crown at the top of a road that is proud to have been central to the historical success of this corner of the city.

But business is no longer booming in Byres Rd. Some are faring better than others. However, the BBC’s decamp to Govan, high rates and the till-ringing success of their neighbours on the flourishing Finnieston strip are all adding to the pressure already created by online shopping and out of town retail centres.

BID status could help to change this. Some businesses believe without the support and funding that BID would bring there is a real risk the local economic situation will become even worse. And that Byres Rd and its surrounding streets and lanes could become a forgotten destination, just a linking road from Great Western Rd to Dumbarton Rd – and Finnieston.

Mark Tracey, who owns Booly Mardy’s in Vinicombe St, said: “This is about taking things into our own hands. We want to create a buzz around here again.”

Tracey believes the potential offered by BID status would provide a platform for Byres Rd to present some healthy competition to their neighbours, an area that also benefits from the nearby presence of The Hydro.

For local businesses the No.1 concern remains that the area is not well enough marketed, whether to locals or to visitors. And there are ongoing frustrations about the quality of the environment – with cracked pavements, litter and problems with waste and recycling – along with parking and loading access issues.

Tracey, also vice chair of Byres Rd Traders Association, added: “We can take an holistic approach to solving the problems and enhancing Byres Road. We’re fed up with litter and unsightly waste bins and we want to reorganise dedicated bin zones out of sight that are easily accessible. We’re also concerned about the plans for parking restrictions. And we want to see more communal places and sheltered spaces.

“This has been a long time coming and is the result of a lot of effort from a lot of people. We need BID status to take this forward. With just the cost of a contribution each from our 200-plus businesses around Byres Rd we can access up to £1m in funding to help us do that.”

Eddie Roscoe, project manager for the Visit West End – Byres Road BID steering group, says the key point about achieving this status is that it will give each business a voice. They will have to make a small investment – levied from £120 up to £3000 depending on the size and rateable value of the business. But he argues the potential for a united approach on improvement initiatives can not only drive footfall and help boost trade but also create a better environment for everyone.

The vote, he stresses, is crucial. Without 50 per cent of the registered businesses voting ‘yes’ to the BID – and that ‘yes’ vote making up at least 50 per cent of the group’s rateable value – it won’t go ahead.

Roscoe, who has a background in business development, has already seen projects such as this revive flagging neighbourhoods and town centres. He said: “We want to make sure people cast their votes and don’t run out of time to get them in.

“A positive vote for a BID can be the start of change for Byres Rd. The organisation would be set up with charitable status, and evidence suggests for every three pence invested in these projects another 92 pence can be levered in from other sources.

“If the steering group don’t get the vote then nothing will happen, and any potential investment from Glasgow city council and the university would be lost. The situation for Byres Rd and its lanes would stay the same or possibly get worse.

“This is an opportunity for local businesses to help shape their own area. It’s not that the BID goes through and then someone else runs it – all the ideas, the changes will be shaped and directed by the eligible voters. They are best placed to do it. They know their consumers, they know the area and many live here too. There is an invaluable knowledge set here which shouldn’t be missed out.”

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BIDs facts

BIDs can support regeneration, grow local economies and create a cleaner safer trading environment.

BID legislation was passed in Scotland in 2006 with the Scottish Government funding six pilot projects in March 2006. Most BIDs run for a period of three or five years and approximately 99 per cent of businesses vote in favour of continuing the BID when they come up for renewal.

In Scotland all seven renewal ballots have been successful.

As of October 2014 there are 28 fully operational BIDs in Scotland with 21 in development – including the BID in Byres Road.

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