Grantham’s most influential businesspeople are putting their clout behind a project which they believe will ensure the town flourishes.
They are taking matters into their own hands, removing politics from the mix and setting out on a journey they believe will be the making of the town.
News of an ambitious plan to form a Business Improvement District (BID) in Grantham was broken by the Journal in January, and the project has moved on in leaps and bounds since.
A committee has formed, a group of seven ‘industry champions’ announced, an outline of Grantham’s BID area created and a timescale set out, with the ultimate aim of seeing Grantham “taken seriously as a place to do business”, thereby boosting the economy and giving the town a much-needed lift.
The BID project was born within the Grantham Business Club, with its current chairman Stuart Pigram taking the reins. He believes Grantham has been let down by the district and county councils, and wants to see local businesses take more control.
He said: “Has Grantham been let down? Absolutely. I have lived in Grantham for 14 years and for 14 years I’ve heard them talking about building a relief road.
“Hopefully, what I can demonstrate is the energy, drive and commitment that’s being put into it to ensure its success and delivery. This is not a council initiative – it won’t be run by politicians.
“This is about making the region know Grantham exists. This is Grantham helping itself.”
**What is a BID?
A BID is an area within which businesses pay a levy on their business rates. This percentage, likely to be one per cent, is spent on improvements within that area, which in Grantham stretches from Gonerby Moor, to Alma Park, to Spittlegate Level. Included are major housing and industrial developments in the pipeline, such as the southern quadrant and KiNG31, which will surround the east-west bypass when it is built.
In order for Grantham to form a BID, every single business ratepayer is given the chance to vote.
Only on a majority vote can the plan go forward. BID status lasts for five years.
With backing from reputable figures within Grantham’s business world, Mr Pigram hopes people will see it is no ‘pie in the sky’ idea but a solid plan.
Amber Kitching is working with Mr Pigram as BID project manager. She said of the plan: “It’s about taking Grantham seriously for once.”
The project does have the backing of local authorities, with representatives of the district and county councils acting as partners.
The time for Grantham to do this is now, said Mr Pigram, with building on the relief road and a new cinema set to be the start of a cultural quarter in the town centre. Added to that, investment by the likes of Lidl and the return of Marks & Spencer “show confidence”.
Meanwhile, two years of development within Grantham Business Club was vital to be able to create a catalyst for the ambitious BID proposal, added Mr Pigram.
**Who decides how the money is spent?
The BID committee. Businesspeople and members of the public will be asked to contribute during consulation phases – but that is where any public involvement ends.
Mr Pigram said: “Public say will be encouraged but it’s not a public vote. I have a business in Grantham for which I pay business rates so I will get a vote.
“The public will have to trust that the BID committee and the board will be working for the benefit of all. The commitment from me and the committee is we will be delivering improvements for Grantham over a five-year period. What those improvements are will be suggested by the stakeholders, as in those entitled to a ballot, but they will be finally decided and implemented by the BID committee.
“The public will have to trust us.”
**What can a BID achieve?
BID money can be spent on anything, provided its affordable. “We’re probably going to raise £300,000 a year. You can’t build a road with £300,000,” said Mr Pigram.
Other BID towns have spent their cash on car parking, night-time security, events programmes and heritage projects. Traffic surveys, park and ride, taxi schemes and anti-social behaviour reduction campaigns are just a handful of other options.
However, Mr Pigram is keen to see money invested in the promotion of Grantham to bring business into the town where SKDC has failed.
**Who are the ‘industry champions’?
Manufacturing: Darren Joint, managing director of Viking Signs
Education and health: Lauren Farrow, a young entrepreneur
Property: Steven Vickers, managing director of Buckminster Estates
Distribution and warehousing: Peter Greenhalgh, managing director of Treasure Transport
Professional services: Thea Hood, partner of Hood Parkes & Co
Hospitality: Chris Duggan, co-owner of Eden House Hotel and Eden Wine Bar
Retail: John and Jennie Cussell, owners of Cussell Jewellers
The BID project launched this week, beginning a three-month feasibility and research period.
On June 1, the initial BID proposal will be published and a roadshow will commence, with several consultation events planned to involve both business owners and members of the public. Ideas will be considered. A website will launch to further spread the word.
A BID proposal will be published, outlining the project. Stuart said: “We will say ‘this is what you said you wanted and this is what we think we can deliver’.” A further round of consultation events will run.
In June 2016, the ballot will begin. Every business ratepayer within the BID catchment area will be asked to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to paying a levy. If the majority, both in terms of ‘yes’ votes and in rateable value, vote for Grantham becoming a BID town, the plan is put in place. Grantham’s BID 2016-2021 will be born.
A further five-year term will follow if a further ‘yes’ vote is secured.
The BID scheme will be announced at the upcoming annual meeting of the business club, at the Urban Hotel Grantham on March 17. The meeting starts at 6pm and any business wanting to learn more about BID is invited to attend. To book a place, call Ms Kitching on 01476 434055.