BID passes first hurdle

A new scheme designed to boost Exmouth businesses will move to the next stage after being given the green light by Exmouth Town Council.

The planned Business Improvement District (BID) would see 630 town centre businesses paying an annual levy, funds from which would be used for projects to raise the town’s profile and boost town centre trade.

The town council has voted to continue the BID process after a feasibility study said the town was suitable.

Following the council’s decision, a new Exmouth Town Company will now be set up to manage the BID, with a full-time chief executive.

A full consultation will then be undertaken to gather the views of each of the 630 businesses involved, which will then take part in a ballot to decide whether the BID should go ahead.

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For the BID to be approved, a majority of the businesses, by number and rateable value, would have to back it.

If the BID is approved at ballot, it is expected to place an annual levy on businesses of 1.5 per cent of their rateable value, which would generate more than �140,000 a year.

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Speaking at the council extraordinary meeting held to vote on the BID, Councillor Mike Williamson said: “The regeneration of the town will be driven by the private sector. I think this is a very good value for money investment, where the business community in Exmouth decide how the yield shall be spent.”

Councillor John Humphreys also backed the bid, saying: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the public sector and private sector to work together.”

However, some councillors raised concerns about the high cost of the BID, both to small businesses and to council tax payers.

Councillor Steve Gazzard said: “I have to say the figures we’ve been given tonight I find absolutely out of this world.

“That we’re going to be asking rate payers to fund this three times, through town, district, and county councils, I think is appalling.

“Exmouth is mostly made up of small independent shops, and they are struggling. It’s not the right time for this.”

The cost of the BID process from now until the ballot has been budgeted at �75,000, although the town council expects the final cost to be lower.

Although the town council is responsible for the funding, much of the cost will be refunded by �45,000 of Section 106 money owed to the town by Tesco, and the council has asked East Devon District Council to pay the �10,000 allocated for town management towards the scheme.

Devon County Council has also been asked to contribute.

The final ballot on the BID is expected to take place next September.

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