Since 2004 towns have in the UK been able to establish Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to fund projects to benefit the area determined. Worthing Town Centre Initiative (WTCI) successfully launched a BID in the town centre in July 2007 which was renewed in November 2012.
Businesses in the area with a rateable value of more than £10,000 contribute a 1% levy which is ring-fenced to be spent in the BID area. The BID promised to increase the numbers visiting central Worthing and to maintain and build Worthing’s position as a major shopping destination in the South East.
One of the objectives is to investigate public realm enhancements and funding same through West Sussex County Council and Worthing Borough Council. This was the driving force behind the recent £1 million bid to finance the repaving and enhancement of Montague Street.
With the current austerity and consequent cut backs councils are hard pressed to meet these demands along with other promised projects. This resulted this week in the clash between the demand for funding 20 mph zones in residential streets and funding the Montague Street enhancement.
The nine members of Worthing County Local Committee decided it would be unwise to go out to consultation on 20 mph residential zones ( a course to which they are committed) if then Worthing’s residents said “Yes” and not to have the funds available. As one West Sussex councillor said they would look idiots. Worthing Daily agrees.
Other BIDs have not solely relied on their local authorities for funding as Worthing appears to have done but have gone elsewhere and with success. Kings Heath, a BID area in Birmingham, has the usual litter picking, street flowers and Christmas lights but also a new town square, on the site of a churchyard once popular with drunks. The capital cost was not provided by Birmingham City Council but by a National Lottery Grant and the application and the design were paid for by the BID.
Locally we also have the Coast to Capital Local Partnership Growing Places Fund which unlocks forward infrastructure and other projects which are well developed, conceptually, but which are blocked from getting started. Montague Street, Portland Road and dare we say Teville Gate spring to mind.
Worthing Daily calls on Worthing Town Centre Initiative to broaden its horizons and look at other funding sources besides our hard pressed local authorities and bid up the potential of their BID.