Roddy Smith: City centre BID has already delivered and must decide now on future plans

03/08/2017.  Tourists on the Royal Mile/High Street, Edinburgh during the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival.
03/08/2017. Tourists on the Royal Mile/High Street, Edinburgh during the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival.
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What does a Business Improvement District actually deliver? It’s a question worth pondering, immersed as we are in the process to decide if Edinburgh city centre’s BID will carry on for another five years.

Answering it is a bit like deciding on the length of a piece of string. What does it deliver? – it really depends on what you want it to do, and the perspective you view it from.

Friends of the Scotsman Roddy Smith - Essential Edinburgh

Friends of the Scotsman Roddy Smith - Essential Edinburgh

However, there is no doubt that one, general answer that can undeniably be supported by evidence is – a lot.

In Edinburgh city centre, we’ve seen our retail and hospitality sectors significantly outperform the Scottish and UK markets generally, and we’ve also seen our footfall strengthen as many other areas have gone down. All good in terms of helping our businesses thrive, creating jobs and opportunities.

But there have been many other successes – the city centre is safer, cleaner, more welcoming, easier to navigate, and livelier than other parts of the city. Don’t take our word for it, that’s the view of surveyed visitors to the city centre.

What’s the evidence?:

l Hospitality sales up 13.5 per cent over three years

l Retail sales in the BID area up 9 per cent over the five year term, 3 per cent ahead of UK average and 13 per cent ahead of the Scottish average

l Our footfall averages led the UK averages by 5.2 per cent – smashing our 2 per cent target

l Our “This is Edinburgh” campaign generated more than £50 million economic benefit

l 89 per cent of city centre visitors feel the area is safer than other parts of the city

l Theft dropped 23 per cent in 2016-17 over the five year average

l 80 per cent of visitors to the BID felt it was cleaner than the rest of the city

l 1,809 tonnes of trade waste was recycled by our award-winning partnership with Changeworks, and our Clean Team removed 14,050 bags of waste each year

We’ve also been integral to bringing the city’s festivals right into the heart of the Capital, again helping drive footfall and ambience at the vital summer and Christmas trading periods, enhancing the attraction of the area, and creating an unmatched atmosphere.

All in all, plenty to be proud of as our member businesses have put their money into their city, investing more than £1 million a year into making the city centre even more successful.

However, while we should be proud of the achievements to date, we absolutely cannot afford to become complacent. That is why we consulted widely with businesses over a two year period, listened to what they had to say, and produced a new business plan for the next five years – one we think will build on the successes to date and help tackle one or two key business and social issues.

The cornerstones of our new business plan are:

l A £1 million marketing campaign focused on the BID area, as part of a £2.35 million package to promote the area throughout the next five years

l We will help resource a multi-agency approach aimed at helping rough sleepers in the city centre find accommodation, following concern expressed by our members at the levels of homelessness and begging in the area

l We will enhance our ongoing partnership with Police Scotland aimed at providing targeted policing for the BID area, affording everyone who uses the city centre even greater levels of safety and security

l We will continue to deliver work to enhance the city centre through our Clean Team and our wayfaring, street furniture, and the provision of all the city centre’s Christmas decorations

In addition, we will of course continue to work across a number of partnerships developed over recent years to deliver in all of the areas we currently work in.

Our new plan will enhance the delivery of our key core services whilst evolving to address some key issues, such as the above, which our members have asked us to tackle. Over the next few weeks we will see how our members have voted. It’s an opportunity for them to reaffirm their commitment to their city centre. And we all benefit from that commitment.

Roddy Smith, Chief Executive of Essential Edinburgh