John Fox, chair of Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) has backed The Harrogate Advertiser Town Centre Survey and believes the results will help to shape our future.
BID, the much-anticipated business improvement initiative which will be launched officially for local businesses approval on September 26 is hoped to really give Harrogate businesses a boost.
Mr Fox said said: “I’d like to congratulate the Harrogate Advertiser on its survey of residents’ views on the town centre.
“There was a good response.
“We weren’t surprised by a lot of the results, we’ve been finding the same things recently while talking to business owners in the town centre.
“I wasn’t surprised by the top five issues identified by the public in the Advertiser’s survey, the Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District) Draft Summary Plan includes most of the same viewpoints.
“The survey is good for our town centre.
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“It shows a good percentage are still using the town centre daily and weekly and a large percentage are supporting the Independents.
“Harrogate does have a fantastic selection of Independents.
“A good number of residents use the town centre for clothes shopping, restaurants and eating out.
“It was very Interesting that 60% responded saying that they still used the town centre for banking. That’s a higher number than we expected.”
Rates and rents: are they too high?
John Fox said: “I think everyone is aware that Business Rates are an archaic system of taxation. It is a tax on the property.
“We need to wait to see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces in his Autumn Statement.
“We need to help town centre businesses with their costs in general.
“As has been achieved by BIDs in other places, we’re keen to reduce businesses’ electricity and gas bills, as well as insurance costs and security costs through the power of group purchasing.
“The good thing for small businesses about BID is that, even if they are exempt from paying the BID levy because of their small size, they can still join BID and still get the benefits of it.”
ore live events and family facilities
John Fox said: “The biggest thing is we need to increase footfall, increase the time the public spend in our town and increase their spend. The BID would promote major campaigns throughout the year like a Christmas and Summer festivals and Floral Town in the spring to encourage visitors.
“The town centre needs more family lesiure facilities such as a bowling alley.
“What do families or visitors do right now on a wet day in Harrogate? There’s nothing.
“We need to improve the night-time economy in the town centre, too.”
Supporting the independents
John Fox said: “Harrogate BID is already encouraging independents through our IQ (Independent Quarter) Group.
“We need to use large empty shops to promote incubator units for new, small businesses.
“We need to encourage start-ups, provide advice to people who want to run their own business.
“Maintaining a wide rage of shops is essential but we do want to develop more independents,”
Pedestrianisation and parking
John Fox said: “On pedestrianisation, businesses are split like Harrogate Advertiser readers with some who are very keen to pedestrianise the whole town centre to others who completely reject the idea.
“BID is keen to work with councils and government to tackle congestion in Harrogate and improve car parking in the town centre.
“We do need to work with Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council to renovate or refurbish the pedestrianisation in Oxford Street and Cambridge Street to make it more attractive.
“I believe the BID could work with the Councils and businesses about the future of pedestrianisation in Harrogate.”
Litter and anti-social behaviour
John Fox said:” “We need to keep the town centre safe and clean. Residents have been complaining to me of litter and dirty streets.
“Harrogate BID is working with partners on issues around begging, drunks and anti-social behaviour.
“We liked the public’s idea of street ambassadors or street rangers to help shoppers or visitors.
“In fact, street ambassadors will probably be one of the early BID initiatives.”