Agenda item

Reading Business Improvement District Ballots

This report outlines the success of Reading’s two Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and seeks endorsement for a proposal for two BIDs for the period 2024 – 2029 covering the town centre and the Abbey Quarter. The report also seeks approval for the Council to vote in favour of both BID proposals in respect of its properties within the BID ‘area of benefit’.


The Committee considered a report outlining proposals to renew Reading’s two town centre Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - Reading Central BID established in 2006 and Abbey Quarter BID established in 2019 – for the period 2024-2029. The report also sought approval for the Council to vote in favour of the proposals in respect of its properties within the proposed BID areas.  The following documents were attached to the report:


·         Appendix 1 Reading Central BID Business Plan 2019 – 2024

·         Appendix 2 Abbey Quarter BID Business Plan 2019 – 2024

·         Appendix 3 Street Names

·         Appendix 4 BID Maps Central and Abbey Quarter

·         Appendix 5 Impact Assessment CIA Tool

·         Appendix 6 Baseline Statements – Reading 2024 – 2029

·         Appendix 7 Formal BID Consultation Results August 2023

·         Appendix 8 BID Themes

·         Appendix 9 Budgets


The report noted that the BIDs had been managed since their inception by the Council’s arm’s length economic development company REDA and that the company was leading on proposals for the continued operation of the BIDs.  The BIDs had successfully delivered a range of enhanced services that complemented the Council’s statutory responsibilities and provided commercial, retail and hospitality businesses with a safer, cleaner, more attractive, more vibrant, and better-connected town centre.  This was funded by the business levy in the designated area that amounted to nearly £1million per year during 2019-2024 and would be nearly £1.5million in the proposed BIDs for 2024-2029.  The BIDs and their Committees also acted as a collective voice for businesses on issues of concern and an effective partner to the statutory bodies in bringing about improvements and positive change.  The report set out a summary of the projects and initiatives delivered as part of the 2019-2024 Business Plans which included Business Wardens, CCTV staff, floral installations, Christmas lighting and events, Seasonal and cultural events, recycling initiatives and deep cleaning.


The report explained that the experience of running two BIDs, one with a retail focus and the other an office focus, had shown that although some common themes existed the two areas had different needs. It had therefore been agreed to keep the two BID areas separate and to allow the resulting business plans to reflect the differences.  It was proposed to extend the boundary of the Reading Central BID to include Greyfriars Road and Station Hill, as well as Cheapside and Minster Street.  This would a cohesive approach to the whole town centre and encompass the new commercial areas currently under construction.  No changes were proposed to the geographical area of the Abbey Quarter BID.  Appendix 3 listed the Streets included in the Central and Abbey Quarter BID areas and Appendix 4 maps of the Central and Abbey Quarter BID areas.


The report explained that the Day Time Levy Percentage had remained at 1% since 2007 but taking account inflation on goods and services to the BID and the level and breadth of services demanded by the businesses it had been agreed by the BID Committees to propose a rise to 1.4%. This levy was still well below most other BIDs in the country.  It was also proposed to align the Night Time levy with that of the daytime (1.4%) instead of charging an additional 2% as in previous BID terms, due to Reading’s hospitality and night-time economy having suffered disproportionately during Covid compared to the retail and office sectors.


The report summarised consultation carried out in developing the BID proposals and explained that the common themes identified would be featured in the Business Plans and prioritised according to the needs and demands of the two separate BID areas. These themes were:


·         Social & Healthy (offering businesses and their staff opportunities to engage in activities that promoted their health and wellbeing as well as the opportunity to give back to our local communities)

·         Enhancing & Exciting (animating our town centre to increase experiential activities attracting residents, employees and visitors to enjoy and use the town centre to live, work and play)

·         Safe & Secure (ensuring that the town centre was safe day and night for all who used it)

·         Environmental & Sustainable (involving BID levy payers in working towards our Reading 2050 vision, the Council’s climate emergency and the Reading Climate Change Strategy)

·         Informed & Represented (being a collective voice on matters in the town centre; supporting businesses to grow through the provision of information, recruitment, and retention of staff)


Footfall data for the town centre showed that weekend visitor numbers were nearing pre-Covid levels, but that Monday to Friday footfall sat at around 50% of pre-Covid levels.  The BID services would reflect this change and aim to increase the number of experiential events (trails, food markets, theatre, music) to drive footfall and ensure the town centre was seen as an exciting and vibrant place to work in, visit, shop and spend leisure time.


The report also noted that the Council was eligible to vote in the required ballots on both BID proposals in respect of its properties within the BID ‘areas of benefit’ and sought approval for the Council to vote in favour of the proposals.


Resolved –


(1)       That the proposals for the Reading Central BID and Abbey Quarter BID ballots be endorsed;


(2)       That, in respect of its properties within the proposed BID areas, the Council vote in favour of both the Reading Central BID and Abbey Quarter BID ballots for the period 2024 – 2029 in the forthcoming ballots;


(3)       That the Executive Director for Economic Growth and Neighbourhood Services be authorised to vote on behalf of the Council.


(Councillor Brock declared an interest in the above item on the grounds that he was a Director of REDA who had developed the proposals and would administer the BIDs. He left the meeting and took no part in the debate or decision.  Councillor Terry took the Chair for this item.)

Supporting documents: