Huntingdon gets yes vote for �1m of improvements

WORK will start this September on a �1million five-year investment plan for Huntingdon town centre after a successful campaign to set up a Business Improvement District (BID).

Following 18 months of work by the scheme’s promoters, the results of the BID vote were announced on Friday (July 20) with 113 of the 139 businesses to vote backing the scheme – 81 per cent in favour, from a turnout of 46 per cent.

The result allows the BID team to levy town centre businesses to raise money to spend on improving the town centre, running events and dealing with issues with the aim of delivering more customers to the town’s businesses. The levy will be 1.5 per cent of a company’s rateable value.

The next stage is to deliver on the promises that were outlined in the BID business plan.

“The first thing to do when you get the yes vote is to get the board up and running to oversee the BID,” said Mo Aswat, director of The Mosaic Partnership and a man who has advised on 50 BIDs across the UK. “The next thing is to start to implement the business plan over the next three to four months so everyone can see something tangible.”

The impact in Bedford, which is now into its second five-year BID term, has been substantial, Mr Aswat added, with crime against businesses down 25 per cent and vouchers, worth �200,000, created to promote its businesses.

The Huntingdon BID board, the first in Cambridgeshire, has plans to spend �325,000 making the centre of Huntingdon clean, safe and welcoming, with ‘Huntingdon Rangers’ patrolling the town centre and working with the police.

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More than �300,000 will be spent on marketing, promotions and events, with a new town centre website and a dedicated gift voucher scheme for the town centre retailers, and �100,000 on business support, including centralised procurement, business networking, advice and training.

Finally, �100,000 would be spent on parking promotions, signage, maps and access for disabled customers.

Councillor Jason Ablewhite, leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, which helped fund the initial BID process, told The Hunts Post the BID could only benefit Huntingdon for the greater good.

“The BID gives power to businesses, who know their area, and gives them the chance to have a positive impact,” he said.

Town centre manager Katy Sismore who worked on the BID process from the beginning, was on holiday for Friday’s announcement, but sent her thanks to her colleagues and included a special mention for former town councillor John Skerry, who had been involved in the BID before he died in a diving accident in May.