AMBITIOUS plans to give Bradford city centre a boost through the development of a Business Improvement District (BID) have taken a giant stride forward.

The results of a feasibility study into the scheme were revealed at the Alhambra Theatre by Ian Ward, chairman of the Bradford BID Development Group, yesterday to key business figures.

A BID is a defined area within a town or city where a levy – typically one to 1.5 per cent – is charged on all business rate payers over and above their normal business rates.

The levy is then used to develop projects or services which benefit the businesses in that area. Recommendations from the Bradford BID team include working to reduce the number of empty shops, encouraging investment into Bradford, marketing the city to a wider audience as well as putting on more events, security improvements and cleaning up problem areas.

The survey found that 70 per cent of respondents were in favour of the BID concept being tested by ballot, while 22 per cent were undecided and eight per cent were against the idea.

Following analysis of survey returns, it is recommended that Bradford now moves towards detailed consultation and the production of a draft BID business plan.

It is anticipated that a ballot would take place in autumn 2018 and, subject to a positive vote, the BID would operate from December 2018.

An initial BID boundary, covering the whole of the city centre as well as the Kirkgate and Broadway shopping centres, has been proposed, along with a 1.25 per cent BID levy, which would lead to 585 eligible business premises being part of the improvement district.

It would result in an annual BID levy income of nearly £420,000, which would amount to more than £2 million over the course of the five-year BID term.

While the boundary line has been drawn to include the bulk of the city centre, it will be tested and it is recommended further consideration is given to the inclusion of Little Germany and the Forster Square Retail Park.

Further “extensive” consultation will now be carried out around the outline proposals.

Mr Ward described the survey results as a “milestone”.

He said: “In the last 12 months we’ve talked a lot about what we are going to do, we’ve come up with loads of different ideas, we’ve generated the feasibility survey.

“To see the surveys coming in and then seeing the final report, it was a pretty big relief, because it has been 12 months of my work and a journey that I’ve asked a number of people to come on because I see the positive aspect of it.

“It has been a long 12 months, there’s no two ways about it, but the next 12 months is where it really gets exciting.

“The impact isn’t overnight, the impact is a journey and the journey would realistically start from January 2019 if it got the vote at the end of next year, but what you would do within your business plan is build in stuff around quick wins.

“You would build quick wins around short-term, medium-term and long-term goals over a five-year journey.

“But it’s massively important, especially at the end of that first year, that people are actually seeing ‘this is what the Business Improvement District has delivered’.

“It’s not about a sprint, it’s very much about ‘it’s over five years’ but it is significantly important that you see wins coming through so people can see you are making a difference.”

The survey shone a spotlight on why businesses feel Bradford under performs, with respondents citing reasons including the image of the city locally and nationally, high levels or perceptions of crime and an insufficient range of shops.

“We are going to make a difference,” Mr Ward said.

“We are certainly, 100 per cent going to make a difference.”

He added: “But it’s not just about delivering the yes vote, it’s about making sure that we change people’s mindsets about maybe what their perceptions may be about Bradford and about where it was and where it’s going.

Mr Ward said: “I certainly know where Bradford is going and I know the Council has been massively supportive in helping move this proposal forward, so it’s not about benefit for one, it’s about benefit for all of us.”