Ballymena looks set to become home to Northern Ireland’s first Business Improvement District (BID) with balloting of businesses now underway.
A BID is an arrangement whereby businesses get together, decide what improvements they want to make, how they are going to manage and deliver them and what it will cost.
All that goes into a business plan which is voted on by those who would have to pay. The BID, which can last for a maximum of five years, must be able to demonstrate how it has benefited the businesses which have funded it.
Ballymena Councillors were updated on the BID on February 16, the very date that the BID vote began. Voting will run until March 30 with the result expected on March 31.
For almost a year, with support from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, and with support from Council, local businesses have been working with statutory agencies and linking with other towns to develop ideas for a BID.
The BID Business Plan is now complete and town businesses have the opportunity to vote to make Ballymena the first BID area in NI which they will manage and control themselves.
They will pay a 1.5% levy based on their rateable value which is expected to raise £240,000 per annum while Council has committed to provide £60k of additional income for the first year giving the Ballymena BID a projected £1.5m investment over the next five years.
The money will be used to ensure “added value” in those areas identified in the Plan and to ensure they are ready to face the challenges posed in retaining and improving their trading environment. However, in his update to Council last Monday, BID manager Peter Day pointed out that the aim of setting up the BiD company by July 1 was dependent on the success of the vote, stating that it required 25% turnout of which 50% had to vote Yes.
Councillors went on to agree a request from Council Officer Sean Trainor that he be permitted to do just that on behalf of the local authoritiy’s three balloted premises - The Braid, Wellington Court and the Public Toilets.