Vision to boost Exeter city centre as businesses back ‘improvement district’

Traders have overwhelmingly backed the continuation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in Exeter – with plenty of plans afoot to enhance the city centre.

More events, extra police, free parking and new Christmas decorations could now be in the pipeline.

The initiative – aimed at boosting the economy – can now run for another five years, with a vision to drive more footfall to the high street and ensure a cleaner, better-promoted and exciting offer.

A vote yesterday (Friday) saw InExeter, which runs the scheme, win the backing of 255 of the businesses for it to continue. Ninety-seven voted against it.

New boundaries have also been set out that will see the area expand for the first time to include part of New North Road, Longbrook Street, Sidwell Street, and Magdalen Road.

There will  also be a separate budget for Magdalen Road-focused projects.

First introduces in 2015, Exeter’s BID is responsible for promoting business within the city centre.

It takes a levy from shops and businesses and in return organises and finances events like the Christmas lights switch-on.

Exeter City Council had previously agreed to cast its votes in favour of continuing the BID after it was warned that  no other organisation would deliver the projects and services.

Speaking after the result was announced, Ann Hunter, InExeter manager, said: “Thank you most importantly to the business community who have voted in favour of continuing to invest in business and the city.

“This is a tremendous result and we look forward to delivering more, achieving more and supporting you more over the next five years.”

Board chairman Patrick Cunningham added: “I am very pleased that the city centre businesses have seized the opportunity to continue InExeter.

“I am sure the effect of this positive vote will encourage greater business collaboration, more events and activities to draw footfall and more business support initiatives.”

The key priorities that businesses wish to be continued include the marketing and promotion of Exeter businesses and events, enhancing the cleaning programme and marketing and advertising.

They also want to see appearance of the city enhanced through dressing, hanging baskets, bunting and Christmas lights.

A visitor survey had said that 81 per cent of visitors felt that decorating Exeter with Christmas lights was important or very important.

Among the new initiatives that the BID aims to deliver in Exeter are:

  • ‘Activating’ the city centre more evenly across the year, with more events from January to June;
  • Investing in new Christmas experiences, such as light projections;
  • Running sector-specific campaigns, including independents and the and music economy;
  • Recruiting a member of staff to deliver a programme of events for the city, working in close partnership with community groups, businesses and stakeholders;
  • Building on enhancing the quality and experience around Christmas;
  • Investing in initiatives such as lighting schemes and directional street art to help brighten areas and attract footfall;
  • Further enhancing the cleaning of the city with more regular jet washing and deep cleaning;
  • Adding seasonal planting and landscaping to enhance vibrancy with a Greenery Action Plan for Exeter in partnership with stakeholders such as Exeter in Bloom;
  • Campaigning for and delivering free parking evenings, Sunday car parking;
  • Exploring options for investing in additional police support and presence for the city centre;
  • Offering more channels of business recycling to supplement are current collections of food waste and waste electrical and electronic equipment;
  • Further investing in footfall cameras and insight reports.

Magdalen Road will run a separate budget from InExeter to deliver extended projects that include greening and planting schemes, cycle parking stands, street decorations, light projections.

Christmas decorations, signage, events, activities, festivals and markets are also on the agenda for the area.

Food waste, electrical and electronic equipment and glass collections will also be explored, along with options to ‘enhance the public realm’ and access and travel through Magdalen Road.

Had businesses voted against the BID, some of the projects that would have ended included the Christmas campaign and lighting, free food and electrical waste collections.

City centre management on behalf of businesses, enhanced cleansing, funding towards events, and street dressing – such as bunting, decorations or hanging baskets – would also have ceased.

The new BID term will run from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2025.

Tour of Britain cycle race will return to Devon and Exeter in 2020