Leaders insist Durham business scheme will deliver

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LEADERS of Durham’s Business Improvement District (Bid) have insisted the initiative is working well and firms will see further benefits soon.

Some traders have complained the Bid, which is tasked with boosting business in the city centre, has been too quiet in recent months.

Richard Toynbee, manager of the Prince Bishops shopping centre, has resigned as board chairman and Bid manager Sonali Craddock is not at work at the moment.

However, Melanie Sensicle, chief executive of Visit County Durham and a Bid director, said: “It might seem quiet but there’s a lot been going on in the background to make sure this year’s programme of activities is as good as it can be.”

Since its launch in March last year, the Bid has introduced food and drink and fashion weeks, plus running the annual retail awards, Chinese New Year celebrations, Christmas lights switch-on and more.

Ms Sensicle said the Bid had enjoyed a very busy first year.

She said: “I think the first year’s been really good. We’ve done some really good events, like Fashion In Durham.

“Some of the business engagement and building of the network has been very successful. Quite a lot’s happened that’s been good.”

Bid leaders have spent a lot of time in recent months reviewing the first year, learning lessons from it and planning this year’s programme of events, Ms Sensicle said, adding that businesses would be contacted about that very shortly.

There has been criticism that some areas of the city, such as North Road, have been overlooked and some individuals excluded.

But Ms Sensicle said the Bid had been encouraging businesses to consider what role they could play, is recruiting new directors and would appoint a new board chairman “fairly imminently”.

“I think we’re well on the way to making sure there’s good representation on the board from all business sectors in the city,” she said.

A centralised procurement scheme allowing firms to club together to save money has just begun, an intra-trading scheme entitling people working in Durham to discounts at city businesses will be launched in June and youths from the Haggrid Project have been cleaning around the railway station and putting hanging baskets on North Road.

Fashion In Durham will return from June 26 to 29 and auditions to find a model to be the face of the event will be held at The Boathouse, off Elvet Bridge, tomorrow (Thursday, May 15).

For further details on the Bid, visit durhambid.co.uk or call 0191-384-1212.

The Bid was introduced following a ballot of businesses in Elvet, North Road, Walkergate and the Peninsula. Firms are charged 1.5 per cent of their rateable value and the initiative is expected to last for at least five years.

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