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Nottingham BID on Their Five Year Plan for Nottingham Businesses

8 November 20 interview: Ashley Carter
photos: Curtis Powell

After securing an overwhelming victory in the recent ballot, Nottingham Business Improvement District is set to continue supporting businesses in the city for at least another five years. We caught up with BID Manager Lucy Stanford to find out more about their plans for the future…

Your work is well-known among business-owners in the city, but can you explain what Nottingham BID does to readers who are less familiar?
BIDs are essentially business-led and business-funded organisations that are formed to be a collective voice for businesses. We then create projects and services to bring benefits to local residents and visitors, and then in turn businesses in the city centre.

Can you give me some examples of those projects and services?
We do a lot of events, such as the Nottingham Ale Trail, the Halloween Trail, and also partner with other organisations on other events, like Nottingham Craft Beer Week, Light Night, Hockley Hustle and The Magnificent Spiegeltent. In terms of services, we work with the Council on things like cleaning, or the Street Pastors who go out at the weekend to make sure people are okay. All of this is to try and encourage people to come in and enjoy the city centre, which then benefits the businesses in the area.  

How do you think Nottingham BID has benefited businesses in the city?
I think things have improved because, in many situations, it’s better to have one collective voice, which can be done through Nottingham BID, rather than lots of individual voices. I think we really support businesses by bringing everyone’s individual ideas together to create something that benefits everyone. We really take on board comments from the businesses and listen to what they need. An example of this can be seen with coming out of lockdown. We distributed 17,000 items to help businesses re-open – you might have seen the blue signage and floor stickers around the city. Doing that helped us create one look and feel across the city, so the people coming in know what they’re looking for and know what to expect.

COVID obviously caused problems for many of the individual businesses in the city. How did it impact Nottingham BID?
One of the first things we did was to put our 2020 plans aside completely. We knew that we needed to act quickly and speak to businesses as soon as possible to see what kind of support they needed – that’s one of the benefits of having a BID, we’re flexible and quick to react. We started by offering support by giving businesses access to employee assistant programmes, so people that were working from home could access free wellness and counselling resources. Once we moved into the re-opening stage, we moved into providing the signage, which, as an individual business, would have been really expensive to get on a small scale. Then the third phase was to look at the more long-term recovery strategies, which is when we brought the Wise Owl Walk to encourage footfall in the city in a COVID-friendly way.

Sadly, some businesses in Nottingham were forced to close permanently as a result of COVID. What sort of impact has that had on BID and other businesses in the area?
Unfortunately it is a very tough time for businesses at the moment, and there are some that have closed and won’t be coming back. But I think for other businesses this is where having a BID to support you can come in handy. One of the longer-term things we’re looking at doing is recreating the vacant unit spaces to make them something interesting. Short-term, we try to vinyl them with key messaging, but we’d like to make that more art-based in the future. That’s not a long-term solution, but it’s something that will help ensure that vacant spaces don’t look so empty. We might not be able to get a new business in there straight away, but if we can use the space as a small, free art gallery, it will help try and keep the area lively. 

In many situations it’s better to have one collective voice, which can be done through Nottingham BID, rather than lots of individual voices

There are a huge number of problems facing businesses of all sizes at the moment, particularly those in the hospitality and retail sectors. What are you seeing as the biggest issues?
Firstly, I should say that the venues in Nottingham have done a really good job in making sure they’re set up in a way that can make people who want to visit them feel safe in doing so. It’s hard to know what the long-term impacts of COVID will be, especially with places like Broadmarsh. But I think we need to try and view it as an opportunity for Nottingham, and see how we can adapt the city to the new normal by re-imagining how space is used. Do we need to bring more green to the city? Do we recreate different cultural aspects of the city? Rather than trying to replace with new retail, we’ve got an opportunity to try and create a city that’s fit for the new normal. 

Nottingham BID secured five more years by a large margin in the recent ballot. Can you tell us a bit more about that process?
We created a business plan that sets out what we would do with the next five years if we were successful, and then promoted it to the businesses. We've been quite fortunate to have such a positive reaction – I think us being there through the lockdown period has probably helped us, but we won with a huge majority and were absolutely honoured to be able to carry on with it for the next five years. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the business plan?
We have four main themes that we focus on. Firstly, there’s Promoted City, which focuses on events like the Halloween Trail and the Nottingham Ale Trail, so we want to bring more of those in and make Nottingham a city where people can experience and hopefully enjoy events like that and stay for the day. Then we've got the Managed City section, which is more about the ‘crime and grime’ side. We run a radio scheme across the city which we want to expand, and also bring an environmental aspect into it to try and create projects that businesses can get involved in to be more environmentally friendly, which I think is a key part of the city’s overall ambitions. Thirdly, we've got the Independent Section, which we'd like to expand into trying out things like independent markets. Then we've got the Working City section, which focuses on the office sector. This includes a few wellness schemes, like lunchtime walking clubs. Finally, we’ve got the big overall Transformation Project.

What are your plans for the next five years?
We’re expanding the BID area to include businesses around the train station and also the area around Nottingham Castle. With all of the redevelopment happening in those locations it seemed logical to bring them into the area, and we’re really excited to work with those new businesses.

We’ve got a lot of big opportunities coming to the city – there is a lot of redevelopment going on and Nottingham BID wants to partner with other organisations as we go through the process to make sure that we bring the most benefit to the city. In the long-term, we want to leave a positive legacy in Nottingham beyond these next five years. 

Nottingham BID website

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