BID: There will be lots of benefits

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Morpeth Town Team began in 2012 in response to the Portas Review. Since then it has been focused on improving the economic vitality of Morpeth, and has delivered a number of key initiatives to help do that.

These include: A much improved Christmas programme; The Food and Drink Festival; Music in the Marketplace; Fair Day, which gets better and bigger every year; Britain/Northumbria in Bloom, for which the town’s achievements are well known; Annual health checks of the local economy.

The work involved in delivering these projects often falls to a few individuals within the Chamber of Trade and the Town Team, who work tirelessly, many of them in a voluntary capacity, to ensure that we bring more people to enjoy our fabulous town.

Much more can be done but resources and capacity are the problem.

During the development of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan it became clear we needed to build the necessary resources to enhance the work we do and address the many concerns that businesses had.

We were mandated to assess the appetite for creating a Business Improvement District (BID). This could not be achieved without some funding. This didn’t seem possible until the formation, by the Government, of a BID Loan Fund. Since this came into being, it has made it possible for more towns and cities to set up BIDs.

There are now over 280 in the UK, NE1 in Newcastle being one of the best known in the north.

It was as a result of that that the Town Team, after consultation with businesses in the Chamber of Trade and Sanderson Arcade in January, proceeded with an application to the BID Loan fund to develop a BID.

Our newsletters and Facebook group makes it clear that we are consulting with businesses to develop the best possible proposal and to ensure we propose a viable BID for the town.

Unfortunately, the BID proposal has faced a negative backlash from a few businesses, some within the town, many from Hexham and much of the concern is down to the manner in which the Hexham BID was created.

We have worked very hard to avoid the negative consequences that have arisen following the establishment of the Hexham BID by ensuring we only focus on retail and office space in the town and that the plans are developed by local people, who know and love our town.

This did not happen in Hexham with the result many of the smaller businesses on industrial sites were included despite the fact they were unlikely to see any benefit.

We also know that many businesses in Hexham were not well informed and we are working hard to ensure that we do not make that mistake in Morpeth.

Coopies Lane cannot be included in the BID proposal as it is a designated industrial area and is not allowed to be in the BID Boundary of retail and office based BID.

Our plea to businesses and the community is to keep an open mind about the potential a BID can have for the town and to get engaged on the Morpeth BID Facebook page.

We recognise that while a BID cannot address everything that we need for the town.

We know from the experience of Penrith and other towns and cities that it can help us to achieve our goal of better promoting the town both locally and further afield. It can also help to influence the public sector to invest in the areas that provide greatest economic and cultural benefit.

We know that a BID can help us to push the message loud and clear that Morpeth, with its rich heritage, is one of the best places in the country to visit, shop and enjoy quality leisure time.

Ken Brown

Chairman, Morpeth BID Steering Group