LERWICK Town Centre Association has been awarded £20,000 of Scottish government funding to develop the area as a Business Improvement District (BID).
Established about 15 years ago, the association opened its own office last year with support from Shetland Islands Council and Highlands & Islands Enterprise, and also through businesses with an increased membership subscription.
Association chairman Laurence Smith said: “We’d like to thank the Scottish government for the funding and will use it in the planning and preparation for the BID ballot and to develop a website. We remain committed to improving and developing the town centre and wish to see all the businesses in the area involved.
“The process will be initially to develop a comprehensive questionnaire which will be sent to all businesses and agencies in the town centre who pay commercial rates. This will give them an opportunity to highlight the issues they would like to see addressed and the services and projects they would like to see implemented.
“From there the BID team will develop a business plan. Ultimately through a ballot the businesses will decide whether they wish to achieve full BID status.
“We have researched the BID model and believe it is the way forward. If we can achieve a ‘yes’ at the ballot, that will provide us with an improved financial base, allowing us to deliver the services and projects proposed.
“The committee hopes that all businesses in the town centre will get behind the BID, as a BID will benefit all of those working in the area, as well as the wider community. We maintain our aspiration for Lerwick’s historic town centre as a flagship for the community.
“This is a good opportunity for Lerwick businesses to take charge of their own destiny, and work in partnership for the common good, and wellbeing of the town centre.”
The Lerwick BID area will involve businesses from a wide range of national and independent retailers, offices, banks, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars and other services.
A business-led strategy which supports local business growth, economic development and regeneration, BIDs have been in operation throughout the world for nearly 40 years with over 1,400 successfully established.
There are currently six BID areas in Scotland: Bathgate town centre; Clackmannanshire business parks; Inverness city centre; Falkirk town centre; Edinburgh city centre; and Alloa town centre. All achieved a resounding mandate from their local business community.
BIDS Scotland project director Ian Davison said: “This is great news for Lerwick and I am delighted that the town centre association has taken the decision to develop a BID. We will support them wholeheartedly and offer as much help as we can.
“Town and city centre BIDs elsewhere in the UK have shown what can be done by having strong business direction and support while working in partnership with the statutory authorities.”