BID rebellion afoot

A controversial plan to boost business could collapse before it even gets off the ground - following a rebellion by traders who refuse to pay.

The proposed Business Improvement District would see businesses paying an annual levy, raising �142,002 a year, if the levy was set at 1.5 per cent of the business’s rateable value.

The BID money could be spent on “added value” projects to boost business.

But, following Albion Hill’s 23 traders opting out two weeks ago, representatives of Exeter Road, Rolle Street and The Parade say they want no part of it.

The proposed BID area covers the town centre, seafront and the marina, but excludes Salterton Road outlets, such as Tesco and Lidl, and the business park.

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The scheme’s proposed area includes 630 businesses – but, under the rules, whole streets can opt out if they get a simple majority.

Over half - 45 out of 87 - Exeter Road businesses have signed a petition against the scheme, while a straw poll of The Parade’s businesses has revealed a quarter of the 49 traders also want out.

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And within the next two weeks, Rolle Street traders will conduct a poll of their own.

Linda Davis, of Whiskers and Wagtails, Exeter Road, said: “It might be �150 a year, but if I have a choice between pretty lights at Christmas or four vets’ bills in a year, I know which one I will choose.”

Tony Redman, of the Parade’s Cabin News, said: “I can’t pretend to have spoken to everybody and to represent everybody.

“But I must have spoken to at least 10 businesses and they are dead against it.”

Rolle Street’s representative, Nural Hadi Mulk, of Wessex Cleaners, said: “We pay VAT, business rates, money to get the rubbish collected…they keep asking for more and more.

“The business environment is bad and we haven’t even hit rock bottom - it’s frightening.”

Cobbler Bill Leach, of Albion Hill, said: “Tesco and Lidl will get away with it while the smaller traders get caned.

“If the BID depends on getting a majority on board, then it hasn’t got a hope in hell.”

Consultant Lucy Ball, who has been employed to draw up the BID plans, said: “I believe once businesses realise what the BID is about and get past all the misinformation, they will support it.

“This is about businesses doing something for themselves. They have to ask what kind of trading environment they want in four years’ time. Do they want to improve business opportunities?

“Every year, it’s always the same few which pay for things like the Christmas Cracker and the Christmas lights that everybody benefits from.”

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