A FALSE perception of high levels of crime is holding Bradford back, according to a survey of city centre businesses.

More than 70 per cent of those who took part in a survey looking into the feasibility of establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) felt visitors to the city centre were put off by the idea that crime levels were high.

Changing those negative perceptions is at the top of the agenda for the Bradford BID Development Board, which is producing a business plan for carrying out more than £2.5 million of proposed improvements to the city centre over a five-year period.

“The reality is that crime is no worse here than in any other major city and, in fact, actual crime levels in the city centre are very low,” said Dave West, who chaired a sub-group of development board members looking into ways to help improve safety in the retail heart of Bradford.

“My wife and I lived right in the centre of the city for 15 years and we always felt safe and had no bad experiences of crime at all. The aim of the BID will be to help ensure that the city centre feels like a safe place to visit at any time of day or night and we have lots of ideas and proposals for ways to improve safety standards.

“One of the biggest challenges, though, will be to tackle the negative perceptions and communicate better to people that Bradford is already one of the safer big city centres.”

Mr West, who is chairman of Little Germany Action Ltd – a not-for-profit company set up in 2011 to promote the historic area – and his team helped to pull together the proposals which make up the Safe section of the BID business plan. The four pillars of the plan – Safe, Clean, Alive and Promoted – cover the main areas identified for action in a feasibility study carried out last year, in which 70 per cent of businesses who responded said they supported the BID project.

The Development Board hopes to raise funds for the projects through a levy on more than 600 city centre-based businesses and organisations. They will be balloted on whether the BID should go ahead in September after consultations on the draft business plan this summer.

The key projects in the Safe pillar include working alongside existing agencies and initiatives to reduce anti-social behaviour and ensure that intelligence is shared among them to make it easier to prevent; ensuring the city centre is marketed and promoted as a safe place to visit; and developing initiatives to encourage visits by people who have become “disengaged” from the city centre.

“It isn’t just about changing perceptions, however,” said Mr West. “The BID will be able to establish initiatives that help to reduce crime as well as the fear of crime.

“For instance, we want to work with partners to explore new technology that is available to make the city centre a safer place and employ a team of ambassadors, who will have a pronounced role around providing additional security and a welcome to the city centre.

“We aim to work closely with the University of Bradford and Bradford College to further promote the Student Safe Spot scheme and we also plan to investigate the development of city centre lighting schemes to make darker areas feel safer.”

Among the other proposals is a project to deliver Purple Flag status, which recognises a well-managed evening economy, and the BID also hopes to resurrect and develop the Pubwatch scheme with the police and licensed premises.Mr West said: “It’s important that we liaise effectively with police to enable the BID levy payers to get the good advice and support they need and we want to set up ties with groups like Street Angels and city centre crime reduction partnerships. It’s all about working together to enhance the service to businesses during the daytime, the evening and overnight.”