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Council back Weymouth's BID business project
IT’S now full steam ahead for a business project to improve Weymouth’s economic hopes after councillors gave it their backing.
Apart from a few concerns, Weymouth and Portland councillors are behind the proposal for the town’s Business Improvement District (BID), which will be put to a ballot in May and could launch in September.
The BID contains proposals to improve economic fortunes and the town centre’s appeal by making it better for locals and visitors.
The final stage before it goes to a vote saw the borough council’s management committee approve technical points at a meeting yesterday.
Economic development spokesman Ian Munro-Price explained how the council had given £41,000 to support the BID steering group last year and with ballot-time approaching, the committee had to ensure the business plan didn’t conflict with council policies.
Councillors also had to appoint someone to cast ‘yes’ votes in the ballot on the council’s behalf – as owner of town centre properties it can take part and cast 30 votes.
Lastly, the committee had to accept any charges would be absorbed by the council – £4,500 annual levy collection costs and £1,700 to run the ballot.
Coun Munro-Price said the BID could attract £1.5 million worth of investment.
Coun Ian Bruce said the council should give its ‘wholehearted support’ to the business community which he hoped would run more services.
He said although the BID shouldn’t replace certain council services it could play a part in promoting things like tourist information, in light of the council closing the TIC.
Coun Geoff Petherick was disappointed to see what the BID proposed was ‘business as usual’ rather than anything ‘inspiring’.
He also expressed concerns about the council being involved in the ballot process and the potential power it had to swing the vote.
Coun Christine James said the BID’s ideas for parking echoed what the council wanted to do and she warned of proposals being duplicated.
She also asked whether incentives could be provided to help shoppers now that free parking on Sundays had finished.
Coun Ray Nowak asked whether Portland could play a part and Coun Ian Roebuck asked if Weymouth Gateway businesses could be included.
Summing up, committee chairman Mike Goodman said the BID would help businesses to ‘support each other put their hands in their pockets’ and come up with a programme that will improve fortunes without council influence.
“It’s their business, we should give them every encouragement so they can get on with it,” he added.
Decision pleases co-ordinator
AFTER the meeting, co-ordinator of the Weymouth BID Nigel Reed said: “I’m very pleased the council has taken this decision.
“We have to acknowledge that it was thanks to the council’s initial funding that helped us get to the position we’re in today.
“The decision at the management meeting is a big step forward and sends out a clear message.
“The council is the biggest contributor to the pot in all of this and officers have also been helpful and supportive.
“Our biggest challenge now is to convince the business community to support it.”
Responding to comments made at the meeting about Portland and Weymouth Gateway, Mr Reed said the BID had to focus on a concentrated area and would be less able to control how it delivers projects if it widened the district.
He said businesses on Portland would still gain from Weymouth BID and Weymouth Gateway firms could join voluntarily.