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A new Business Improvement District could revolutionise the future for St Ives town centre

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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ST IVES is aiming to launch a Business Improvement District to help transform the town centre's economic future.

The town's chamber of trade and commerce has already begun the process of securing funding to carry out a consultation with local businesses.

BIDs are five-year programmes funded by a levy on town-centre businesses to generate improvement and innovation.

Truro has been transformed by its influential BID – led by Totally Truro.

It has funded the Festival of Lights at Christmas, introduced festivals like Music In The City and even co-ordinated opposition to a major sewage plan that would disrupt the city centre for nearly a year.

St Ives's ambitious chamber thinks a BID in its town centre could be a similar rallying point for its businesses – uniting them in improving and promoting what is on offer.

Paul Ford, of St Ives chamber, said: "We are discussing it with Cornwall Council. We have already applied for and had confirmed that we will get part of a research grant.

"We are now looking at the process of sourcing the rest of the funding required to carry out the first year's research to see if a BID is wanted and is viable."

Support for a BID has already been voiced by a number of influential businesses in St Ives after presentations from Totally Truro BID manager Neil Scott, who himself lives near St Ives, at St Ives chamber's open meetings.

He said: "When you take the time to talk with any business and to explain the hard benefits that the BID will bring to them specifically and to the town as a whole, invariably they will turn around."

Newquay, Falmouth, Truro, and most recently Camborne have launched their own BIDs with varying levels of success.

Mr Scott said: "A BID is absolutely not a 'one size fits all' and will only succeed if it responds to the specific local needs of each trading environment."

The next stage for St Ives is to carry out a year-long consultation costing around £20,000, according to Cornwall Council's BID development officer Josyanne Thatcher, who is keen to stress that "this is not a BID yet".

She said: "Cornwall Council does not have a pot of money to develop BIDs. We have to look whether it is going to be viable and some pot of funding has to be found somewhere else."

Mr Ford, from St Ives chamber, which represents 80 local businesses, said they still needed to match fund the grant they had secured. But he said they were confident that if they did they could carry out a convincing consultation.

He said: "It's a very simple process. During the consultation, if 51 per cent of businesses say yes then it's on."

That could mean a change in the fortunes for St Ives, which is a hugely successful summer trading centre but suffers in the winter.

Mr Ford said: "I think the chamber sees a BID as an opportunity to really get to grip with things that are not happening in the town.

"We must promote the town and we need to look at the aesthetics of the town."

The idea is proving popular in St Ives.

Damian Sargent, director of Aspects Holidays, said: "Being a tourism business, we think it's great. The BID should give the town the profile it deserves and needs.

"As a visitor coming into St Ives it will support the activities already in the town like the Christmas lights and the festivals. As a resident I want to be able to shop without going to Truro or Penzance."

Angela Walker from the Rivendell guest house said: "I'm definitely backing it. It is a move forward."

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