Truro's BID Renewal 2012
Truro was the first location in Cornwall to successfully develop a Business Improvement District (BID). The Truro BID secured a ‘yes’ vote at ballot in July 2007 and commenced delivery of a programme of new services and initiatives in October 2007.
For those who know it, Truro is a great little city, but not enough people knew it resulting in comparatively low and/or inconsistent visitor numbers. The city was at risk from competition from other towns and cities both in Cornwall and across the south west, particularly from Exeter and Plymouth. Despite being the retail centre for Cornwall, funding for Christmas lights had disappeared and also, despite plenty of ideas for innovative events, there was no dedicated resource to coordinate and deliver them. There is no denying that Truro has its highly attractive spots but this does not apply to all areas; equally, despite being a very compact city centre, it is difficult to navigate around resulting in the secondary and tertiary areas suffering from very low footfall.
The Truro BID
The current BID includes 418 levy paying businesses each contributing a levy equivalent to 1% of their rateable value for each of the five years of the initial term. This generates circa £240,000 per annum. The Truro BID is delivered by ‘Totally Truro' a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee; the company has a board of non-executive directors and employs a full-time BID Manager and a part-time Marketing and Communications Officer all committed to delivering the projects contained within its Business Plan.
BID projects and achievements
The Business Plan contains five project headings, which are listed below with a summary of the achievements to date against each heading.
This is a priority project for the Truro BID and we have a lot to shout about. The first priority was to develop a marketing campaign for Truro, understanding who our target customer was; the messages that we wanted to communicate and the mediums that we wanted to utilise. The main communication route is via our website www.enjoytruro.co.uk - the site was launched in 2008 and contains a dedicated page for each business in the BID area, providing a series of images, copy, contact details, links to other websites and a map for each individual business. For about a third of them, this was their first presence on the internet. The site also contains comprehensive news and events listings, ‘getting here' information and regular business profiles. The site has rapidly established itself as the authoritative site for Truro and regularly achieves over 35,000 page hits per month. A monthly e-newsletter, containing links to key stories on the site, is sent to 500 unique business contacts.
Other marketing achievements include dedicated festival guides to support our Christmas, ‘Music Truro' and ‘Art in the City' festivals. In the case of the Christmas guide, this has now reached a circulation figure of over 22,000 printed copies and is also available as a download from our website. In addition, we have produced two editions of ‘Gourmet Truro' - a detailed guide to over 100 food and drink businesses in the BID; Hang on Friday and Pay Day Friday initiatives to encourage early evening trade; new business welcome packs; a monthly full/double page street feature in the West Briton and a PR campaign with an annual editorial value of over £40,000.
Again, another priority project for the Truro BID, particularly in terms of Christmas (the year prior to the BID there were no Christmas lights in Truro and businesses suffered as a result). The Truro BID has delivered a spectacular Christmas lighting display in the city centre that is now widely recognised as being one of the best in the south west. Starting in the centre of the city, the scheme has been further extended year on year to include secondary and tertiary locations. The BID also co-ordinates the overall Christmas festival, funding a diverse range of festive entertainment, organising road closures for late night shopping and running an extensive marketing and advertising campaign. The big events (for example the switch-on of the lights in conjunction with the City of Lights procession) attract audiences of up to 25,000, making it the single largest audience for an evening event anywhere in Cornwall. Late night shopping evenings attract audiences of up to 20,000 visitors.
The BID has also delivered an annual music festival (Music Truro) and an annual art festival (Art in the City) which was a finalist in the UK:Event Awards 2010 - both events attracting new audiences into Truro. Other events supported by Totally Truro include: City of Lights; Cornwall Food & Drink Festival; Cornwall Boat Show; Victorian Christmas Market; Be Active Truro; Truro Carnival; Sky Garden; installation and unveiling of ‘The Drummer' sculpture commission on Lemon Quay.
Safer city centre
Thankfully, crime was not perceived as a big issue for Truro, but some areas are not particularly welcoming. The BID provides the opportunity to enhance the opeways through re-painting and interpretation boards with projects due to commence in 2012.
Attractive city centre
The Truro BID has provided for the supply, installation and maintenance of over 1,100 additional floral displays throughout the city. The displays have primarily been placed in secondary locations such as New Bridge Street, Kenwyn Street and Little Castle Street - areas that have been bereft of floral displays - as well as on some of the main approach routes to the city, including Morlaix Avenue and the train station. In providing attractive displays and engaging the business community, the BID scheme has made a significant contribution to Truro winning three successive ‘Gold' awards at the 2009/2010/2011 South West in Bloom competitions and we have now been entered to the prestigious Britain in Bloom competition.
Accessible city centre
The Truro BID is the main funder of ‘Go!Truro' - the city's shopmobility scheme, one of the first services delivered through the BID. The scheme provides a range of manual wheelchairs, power chairs and electric scooters to allow those with temporary or permanent disabilities to access the city centre and its facilities. The service is operated by Volunteer Cornwall and now has 250 members, with usage of this important service growing.
Summary of project delivery
In its initial four years, and against a highly volatile economic backdrop, the Truro BID has delivered:
• New events, attracting up to 25,000 visitors
• New Christmas lights
• Every business now on-line
• ‘South West in Bloom' gold awards
• Better communication
• More influence
• More confidence
• New business investment (one of the lowest retail vacancy rates in the south west)
With time, the BID has become the authoritative business voice and is regularly consulted on a diverse range of projects that impact on the city - from major planning proposals to public transport, joint marketing and public safety initiatives. Strong and productive relationships are now in place with a range of external partners including City Council, Cornwall Council, Police and the media. The BID has also lead on a range of projects to secure additional funding, including Convergence funding, for the city.
Is the Truro BID working?
The activities summarised above arose from detailed consultation with Truro businesses in 2006/07 and were captured in the original Business Plan. Therefore, by delivering against the objectives contained in the plan, we are clearly demonstrating the effectiveness of the BID. However, over the last five years the business environment of Truro and indeed globally, has been subjected to the biggest recession and the fastest evolution in the history of the retail and leisure market. Against that backdrop, Truro has performed better than most with continued high demand for retail space and amongst the lowest vacancy rates in the UK. Truro. Please note that our current budget does not allow for detailed business and visitor surveys, footflow counts etc.
Renewing the Truro BID
In continuing for a second term, the Truro BID will aim to meet the following objectives:
• Retain Truro's dominance as Cornwall's administrative and employment centre
• Retain Truro's dominance as Cornwall's retail centre
• Increase footflow to secondary areas
• Support the intensification of the existing city centre as opposed to out-of-town expansion
• Encourage vibrant, innovative and good quality businesses into the city
• Develop a ‘creative and cultural' Truro
• Actively support sustainable transport strategies
• Support and enhance a sense of spirit and civic pride.
Before we identify potential projects for the second term, it is worth reflecting on the challenges:
• Changing economy - the pressures on businesses have increased significantly since 2007 and translate into reduced spend in town centres, increased costs of business rates, rents, commodities and utilities
• Reduction in public service provision - this will leave gaps e.g. CCTV monitoring, policing levels, car parking tariffs
• The level of change in the Truro business community - whilst demand for retail space in particular within Truro remains high, during the current BID term, over half of the businesses have changed, with the new businesses having to adopt an existing BID as opposed to being directly involved in its development
• Money - concerns that businesses will perceive the BID as a cost as opposed to the investment that it is
• Expectations - as the current BID progresses, business expectation of what can be delivered with finite budgets and resources increases. Businesses may expect the BID can deliver more than is realistic!
BID renewal - potential projects
Naturally, these will be tested and endorsed by the business community, but potential projects are likely to include:
Events and marketing
• Christmas lights and events
• Music festival
• Art festival
• Marketing materials
• Marketing campaign
• Funding (match) for PCSOs
• CCTV monitoring
• Street Pastors
• Next level of signage and interpretation
• Street furniture
• Procurement of services, particularly utilities
Resourcing the BID renewal
The Truro BID will be the first in Cornwall to seek a renewal. The importance of a successful outcome, both to Truro and to BIDs in Cornwall cannot be underestimated. The key challenge in delivering this will be resourcing all of the activities needed whilst continuing to deliver on the current BID projects. To this end, we have restructured our team roles with Sam Parker, Communications Officer consulting with local businesses to ensure that we develop a new Business Plan that truly reflects the needs of local businesses and Sian Knights, Marketing and Communications Officer, being responsible for keeping the enjoytruro website updated and developing our marketing materials.
The Truro BID, the first in Cornwall, has undoubtedly changed and enhanced the trading environment of Truro by providing a detailed business plan, a budget and a dedicated resource to deliver. The success of the BID has seen similar schemes being introduced and investigated in other Cornish towns. A successful renewal ballot will be vital to the continued success of Truro.
Appointment of proxies
Persons eligible to vote in the BID renewal ballot may appoint someone else to vote on their behalf (for example if you are going to be away at the time of the ballot).
A summary of the proposed BID arrangements for the
renewal of the Truro Business Improvement District (BID)