Galashiels? We've got an app for that, says BID group

Proposals to set up a business improvement district (BID) in Galashiels have taken a step forward with the publication of a business plan.

That plan will now be pitched to the town’s businesses in a bid to secure their approval.

A consultation period will end with businesses being balloted in October and November and asked to decide whether or not they think the proposals will be beneficial to them and the town as a whole.

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The main aims of the BID scheme, a business-led partnership, include increasing footfall in the town centre, making it more welcoming, attracting more new businesses, representing all levy-paying businesses and positioning Galashiels as a prime visitor destination, with its own app.

In his introduction to the plan, BID group chairman Craig Murray, of baker Alex Dalgetty and Sons, says that because the Borders Railway has made the town more accessible, it needs to be ready for the 45,000 visitors a year he believes will arrive once the Great Tapestry of Scotland centre is opened in 2020.

He added: “The timing is right for a Galashiels BID. We will not get another opportunity like this.”

He goes on to list perceived benefits to businesses taking part in the scheme, adding: “It will give us the opportunity to make Galashiels the best it can be and to showcase our beautiful Borders town to the wider world.”

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The business plan includes promises to deliver a series of annual events to further increase footfall, such as a food festival and a “high-end Christmas event including a seasonal market and enhanced Christmas lights and decorations”.

It also talks about working with Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council to secure hotel accommodation in the town, involving members in events so they can get full benefit from them and working with other neighbouring authorities to deliver more tempting visitor packages.

For instance, the project is involved in launching the Galashiels Goes Extreme event taking place on Saturday, August 25.

It’s hoped this will become an annual occurrence if a yes vote for a BID is forthcoming.

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It’s also proposed to promote the town with a new website, social media channels, app and gift card encouraging residents to shop locally.

The cash comes from the businesses themselves.

There are 343 businesses in the BID area, each of them prospectively paying a levy related to their businesses’ rateable value.

For instance, for a shop with a rateable value of less then £2,500, a donation buys voluntary membership, while for values between £2,501 and £10,263 it’s £195 a year, and for properties between £10,264 and £1,315,789. the charge is 1.9% of the value.

For those with a rates value of over £315,789, the annual charge will be capped at £25,000.

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It’s estimated that the total levy income over the five years of the project would be just over £1m.

Project manager Mags Fenner, who also masterminded Selkirk’s BID programme, said: “The feedback so far has been almost exclusively positive, which is encouraging.

“It’s eminently affordable, and we are hoping that with some of the things in the business plan, it will prove to be cost-neutral to businesses.”