A leading UK expert in the evolution of town and city centres has given Sunderland businesses their starkest warning yet – back the BID or “face the consequences”.
In November eligible businesses from across the city will be able to vote to return Sunderland Business Improvement District for another five years – ring fencing an investment of around £3million.
And Paul Clement, chief executive of management company CMS, now part of Savills, has warned that a ‘no’ vote will be “a disaster and a major step back for the city”.
Voting will take place throughout November and Mr Clement said: “It is a binary decision with only two possible outcomes.
“If businesses decide they don’t want the BID to continue then there is no question whatsoever that the city will lose ground on its competitors.
“But if they vote yes – and I can’t stress strongly enough that they should – then they can implement the changes that are vital if the city centre is to meet the changing demands of the consumer.
“People have more choice than ever about where they work, where they shop and how they spend their time,” he said.
“They can go wherever they like and so city centres have to become experiential – they have to be pleasurable places to visit.
“Businesses can drive that change and the only model that gives them collective clout, democracy and funding is the BID – they simply cannot succeed without it.”
In its first term Sunderland BID has successfully instigated initiatives such as Restaurant Week – held twice yearly – and introduced street rangers, who can rapidly respond to cleaning and maintenance issues.
If voted in for a further term, the BID plans to build on these and also to work with absentee landlords, agents and investors to bring empty spaces back to life and identify innovative ways to improve the look of tired and neglected buildings. On a broader level, Sunderland BID plans to continue to lobby local and national Government on issues which affect local businesses and work with other organisations to find ways to reduce business costs, and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“It has laid solid foundations,” said Mr Clement, “which will be utterly wasted if they are not built on.
“Sunderland city centre has a great future – but it needs the BID to achieve it.”
He saw the city at first hand last month when he was key note speaker at the official launch of the BID’s business plan for the next five years.
“And his message was loud and clear,” said Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID.
“People are not only changing the way they shop, they are constantly reassessing the way they use their leisure time.
“This inevitably poses challenges for retailers and city centres but, by working together and by harnessing the opportunities – and the investment which is only available through the BID – we can turn those challenges into opportunities.
“We have been aided enormously over the past five years by the levy payers and that is vital because unless this is a collaboration it won’t work.
“We’ve collaborated with them, too, in the creation of our business plan and I am confident that, if we can secure our remit, we will be well on our way to creating a vibrant, prosperous city centre, of which we can all be proud.”
The full business plan can be viewed at the BID’s website on www.sunderlandbid.co.uk
WHAT THE CITY STANDS TO LOSE …
If the BID isn’t re-elected, this is what Sunderland will lose ...
The full programme of Christmas activities in the city, including the annual ice rink, will not be replaced.
The highly successful Restaurant Week – which boosts the city’s economy – will no longer take place.
Funding for special events like the summer Fanzone will not be available.
Initiatives such as Mak’Em Smile would not continue.
City clean-up schemes like Clean Sweep would not happen.