This is the Year of the BID.

After almost 12 months of preparatory work, the campaign to set up a Business Improvement District for Bradford city centre is getting underway in earnest.

Business leaders steering the campaign have just nine months to persuade more than 600 retailers, professional services companies and other firms and organisations to vote in favour of paying for a five-year project to breathe new life into the city centre.

If they are successful, about £2.5 million will be raised to improve the safety, cleanliness, vitality and marketing of Bradford’s retail heart.

Similar BIDs have already been established in almost 300 towns and cities across the country and most have reported making major strides in improving the fortunes of their areas. Almost all of those who have completed their first five years have been voted in for a second term.

The first meeting took place on Thursday of the Shadow BID Board, which has been set up as a result of the completion of a feasibility study which reported at the end of 2017 that 70 per cent of those who responded were in favour of a BID going ahead.

More than 200 firms and organisations took part in the study – about a third of the 600 who will be balloted to support the scheme in September/October.

Ian Ward, chair of the group developing the BID project, said: “A huge amount of hard work has already gone into getting us here but the feasibility study gave an overwhelming endorsement to the BID proposal and it’s given us a real boost for the campaign ahead.

“It’s our job now to put in the hard yards to show all those in the BID area that we can use their money to make a real difference to their future prospects as city centre businesses.”

The Shadow Board, whose members will be candidates for the actual operating board if the BID is established, include representatives of independent retailers, bars and restaurants as well as local representatives of major national retail chains, such as Boots, M&S, Primark and Debenhams, and the managers of the Broadway and Kirkgate shopping centres and Forster Square retail park.

There are also representatives of professional services firms such as Santander and Gordons solicitors, as well as Bradford Council and the Police. They are joined by other key stakeholders such as the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford City FC, Bradford Civic Society and Little Germany Action Group.

The Board is chaired by Ian Ward, general manager of The Broadway, supported by deputy chairs Sandy Needham, chief executive of the West and North Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce, and Dr Trevor Higgins, chief executive of Bradford Breakthrough.

The Board’s key task is to draw up a business plan to tackle the list of issues highlighted in the feasibility study.

The plan will operate under four key strands: clean, safe, alive and promoted. The aim is to use the funds from an annual business levy to promote and market central Bradford, encouraging investment, bringing in new events, smartening up neglected areas and improving safety and security for shoppers and visitors.

Projects identified in the feasibility study include:

improving the appearance of empty shops

projects to encourage investment into Bradford

marketing and promotion to project the city to a far wider audience

more major city centre events or festivals

street cleansing and street washing, to include chewing gum removal

improvements to problem areas, such as graffiti or fly-tipping removal

security improvements

greater lobbying, representation and championing of the city

new seasonal events, including more Christmas activities

daytime wardens/hosts/ambassadors

Mr Ward said: “These are just some of the key areas we’ve identified but during the consultations on the business plan, we’ll be calling on those who will be balloted to let us know what else they think we can do to help improve the city centre.

“The BID is all about businesses working together for the future of the city centre and we’re convinced we have the energy, innovation and creativity within the BID area to take Bradford to the next level.”