Businesses in St Andrews are voting on a new organisation which could play a key role in the town.
BID St Andrews will launch only if the majority vote yes in the ballot which runs until early next month.
But, if they give their support, then St Andrews will become the third Fife town to launch a BID – a Business Improvement District – dedicated to promoting, and speaking up for, the town.
BID St Andrews has a five-year business ready to launch in January, and it is confident it can deliver real benefits from the £1m in levy funds which will come from businesses within that timespan.
The steering group driving the creation of the B1D is made up of local business people from within the specially created zone which runs from the R & A to East Sands Leisure Centre – in effect, the heart of St Andrews’ town centre.
The ethos is simple – to work together and invest collectively to make improvements which are over and above the services provided by Fife Council.
In other words, while businesses in the zone all have to pay in, they will get much more back in return.
The BID zone has some 240 businesses which have until October 8 to say yes – it’s a majority vote, but the BID must also win the the backing of over 50 per cent by combined rateable value to get the green light.
Over the past year, the steering group has staged a number of open meetings, spoken with many businesses, established a social media presence – and now it is busy putting the case for a yes vote.
Ken Dalton, chairman, said: ‘‘This is a great opportunity for St Andrews to have one strong voice.
‘‘St Andrews has so much to offer as a place to live, work, study and visit, but we also must maintain our position. We cannot take it for granted.’’
While many towns may look on with envy at St Andrews’ vibrancy, the BID believes there is still work to be done.
Its business plan includes commitments to improve parking and lobby for a review of charges; a bid to make St Andrews a ‘zero waste’ town; bringing in wi-fi; staging ‘Shop Local’ initiatives and filling in the gaps in the town’s calendar and ‘down time’ caused by the changes to university term times with new events and festivals, celebrating food and drink and historic photographic links.
It won’t all happen overnight but the commitment to get the most from the levy funding – and any match funding that opens up to the BID – is set in stone.
Mr Dalton explained: ‘‘There are existing events and we want to work with them and ensure every event is enhanced through strong marketing and promotion.
‘’A lot happens here, but St Andrews doesn’t have a festival like Pittenweem or Crail, so we’re looking at a celebration of photography – this is where it first started and where the university has one of the finest collections in the UK but which is never seen in public.
‘‘Food and drink are huge parts of our town. We have an established festival which is ready to expand, and the BID can play a huge part in that.
‘’We’re also looking to fill in the quiet time caused by changes to the university term times. Events such as the proposed Burns celebration will bring people to town to the benefit of all.’’
The BID, however, isn’t a dedicated events company –its role covers everything from networking locally to lobbying on behalf of the town – and bringing improvements across the board.
Mr Dalton is also looking to co-opt key players who sit outwith the BID zone – big names with a lot to offer the town.
‘‘There is a huge catchment area around the BID and I am confident they will want to opt in,’’ he said. ‘‘The levy gives us £1m over five years – invest that properly and we can really improve the town.’’Allan crow