Tweed Valley BID on track despite no levies this year
Scottish Borders Councillors gave wholehearted support to the Teviotdale business improvement district (BID) scheme yesterday at the virtual full meeting of the council.
The BID scheme, which is expected to provide an estimated income of £350,000 over five years through levies paid by the area’s businesses, with a mind to “grow a stronger, more sustainable tourism industry” in the Tweed Valley.
It was approved by the area’s businesses in a formal ballot last November and was due to become operational in April of this year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was agreed to suspend levies until April 2021.
However, the group developed an initial pandemic recovery response plan focusing on supporting businesses with digital advice and guidance as well as further development of their marketing activities to
increase the profile of the Tweed Valley as a safe outdoor destination for visitors.
The pandemic has already hit the area hard, with Peebles Hydro and MacDonald Cardrona hotels announcing planned job cuts.
Speaking from his home on the Microsoft Teams meeting yesterday, councillor Mark Rowley, the executive member for business and economic development, said the challenges tourism businesses are facing now make the scheme all the more important.
He said: “We supported the business improvement district for Selkirk a couple of years ago and that has already started its work.
“I think the Tweeddale BID is fairly unique in that rather than just being a geographical area, it’s a thematic one, looking at tourism and hospitality.
“Support for it has never, ever been needed more than now, following the covid crisis that we find ourselves in.
“I’ve followed many of the businesses involved in the Tweeddale BID very closely on social media over the last few months.
“They are itching to get working and have been very busy promoting their area as a place to come and visit as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Tweeddale councillor Robin Tatler added: “It can’t be underestimated how critical it is for tourism businesses in this area are supported and this initiative has been supported by all the members in Tweeddale.
“I have real confidence going forward that the group will do the best they can.
“The challenge of course is going to come next year when the levies are carried out to ensure they get the income they have anticipated.”
Council leader Shona Haslam, who also represents Tweeddale, thanked the council officers and the BID team for their work so far in the process.
She added: “With the recent news about our struggling tourism sector, this can only be a positive thing for the Tweed Valley.
“One of the advantages of lockdown is the freedom to explore our immediate surroundings a bit more and on my daily exercise I found many riverside paths that I never knew existed, despite living in Peebles for more than 30 years.
“There is so much to see and do in the valley and we want others to come and experience it too.
“The tourism BID will allow all the businesses in the valley to have a stake in that, to promote their area to the outside world.
“All the businesses I have spoken to are very excited to get going.
“As the economic reality of covid starts to hit, this industry is going to feel it more, and the BID scheme is the one tool in our arsenal for us to fight the impact.”
Mrs Haslam nominated councillor Stuart Bell to sit on the BID board as a representative of the council, given his work already done on the project.
Accepting the nomination, Mr Bell said the BID had already achieved much in gaining support from the businesses.
He added: “The BID board has already decided two things.
“One, to not raise any levy money this year, but to start in April 2021.
“But it has also successfully secured Scottish towns partnership funding to get started without any levy.
“In good entrepreneurial form, they wanted at least £10,000 to get under way, so they made a bid to the partnershio for £25,000.
“They secured £8,000 of that, to which the council has added £15,000, for which I thank the council.
“So the BID now hits the ground running, and now businesses can benefit from a new digital network and a marketing campaign to get tourists back to the Tweed.”