With the ballot for Sheffield BID’s future well underway this month, unLTD’s Mike Durham had a chat with some of the schemes’ admirers to find out why they’re such big fans.
It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since the BID first made its home in Sheffield all the way back in 2015.
In that time BID, or the ‘Business Improvement District’, has partnered with more than 500 UK and independent retailers, hospitality and commercial employers across 244 streets to help provide the city centre a brighter future.
From rubbing away graffiti on shop walls, to attracting visitors with giant Lego spaceships, and even giving business-saving advice during three national lockdowns – it’s not out of the question to say BID has come a key part of Sheffield’s business community.
If the BID is to stay that way for the next five years, then the levy payers which fund the scheme – businesses occupying hereditaments with a rateable value of £40,000 or more – have until 5pm on the 25 February to cast their votes of approval.
We chatted to three businesses who are some of the BID’s biggest fans to find out why they’re hoping it’ll remain an active voice for Sheffield’s City Centre for years to come.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE FOR SHEFFIELD CITY TRUST
“We have two prominent venues in Sheffield City Centre, Sheffield City Hall and Ponds Forge, which on a ‘normal’ year can hold up to 500 events around sporting, business and entertainment bringing in up to 150,000 visitors – many from outside our city.
“We understand the need to have a vibrant city centre that brings people back to Sheffield again and again, which is why we are keen to work with BID as they’ve got the city centre’s best interests at heart.
“City centres – and retail specifically – have had challenging times in recent years across the country, but schemes like this have meant Sheffield has seen encouraging signs of redevelopment.
“The central challenge that all city centres face is encouraging people to spend their valuable time there, and retailing alone won’t be sufficient.
“The majority of shoppers have had no choice but to get used to online shopping over the past 18 months, which has changed the future of city centre retail permanently – an engaging, immersive experience is now more essential than ever before.
“BID projects such as the Herd of Sheffield, Bricktropolis, and the upcoming Bears of Sheffield are new installations that provide interest in the city and get people exploring.
“Whilst large events like Cliffhanger present a very individual look at Sheffield and the strengths our city offers; cementing the role of the green, outdoor spaces we have on our doorstep.
“On-going support for initiatives that continue to develop Sheffield’s unique and clear personality are essential to a successful future for business in the city centre.
“In addition, the BID team are well aware of the need to provide a safe environment for all visitors and have been especially helpful during the last year and a half helping us support local homeless people who congregate around our venues.
“We are also keen to support the latest planning on active travel, and welcome the vision from Sheffield BID and Sheffield City Council on a new vision for Fargate and Castlegate that matches the great developments that have already taken place down the Moor.”
CO-FOUNDER OF SMOKE BBQ SHEFFIELD AND GEO
“In the beginning Sheffield BID just seemed like it was another levy to pay, and all you thought was ‘great what are we going to get for it’, but then as time progressed you really started to see the value in it.
“For one you have the regular visits from BID ambassadors, who check in with you, let you know what is going off and find out about the events BID has taking place, which helps us to plan.
“They bring things to the city centre, whether it’s come around and look at an elephant or kids going on a treasure hunt with their parents.
“The city centre is also noticeably cleaner now. We suffered a lot with graffiti around St Paul’s place where Smoke is based as it’s a nice area with big buildings and big spaces giving a lot of opportunities to draw things.
“The BID looking after that has been great – it gets spotted by ambassadors and reported back to the cleaning teams, who come out quickly and they clear it, instead of our managers going out and rubbing stuff off the walls.
“If we were paying our levy, and all we got was graffiti removed, that would make me a happy man.
“BID also went beyond my expectations when we approached them for support with Geo – a mobile app for businesses to communicate directly with customers.
“I didn’t think BID would have any obligation to help, but they’ve taken it to heart to support us – and bestow the value of Geo – to all the other businesses in Sheffield.
“As well as using it themselves, they have their ambassadors talking to every business they visit about Geo, sent e-shots, and put us on their webpage. “We have about 60 to 70 businesses on the platform now. I would say 40 per cent of them came from the BID, including big names like John Lewis, which is incredible.”
DIRECTOR OF ARUP IN SHEFFIELD
“We want to support Sheffield, which is why we have actively supported the BID through our non-exec director Simon Nevill – giving him the time and flexibility to work with the scheme since before it was fully formed over five years ago.
“We support the overall concept of helping the cities where we have offices to be places where we all want to live and work.
“As an office we may not be directly impacted by the front-line work of the BID in the busier areas, as footfall is not intrinsic to our work, but having a vibrant city centre is good for our staff. They enjoy staying in town longer at the end of the day, and have a place to visit during the weekend.
“Vibrancy and a wide range of pubs, restaurants and cultural activities are essential to attracting people to Sheffield, and the BID has a major role to play in this by supporting extended hours in the city, and helping with safety and security.
“With COVID-19 there are now fewer people in the city centre, and the increased night time security and cleaning services BID has provided has been incredibly important for those living or still working in the area – and for encouraging people back as restrictions are eased.
“Coming out of the pandemic will be a really crucial time and having the BID bringing in extra activities to encourage people back into the city centre will assist and help the city recover.
“The key thing is local businesses working together to make things better for all, and the BID is the convener of this work and activity. BID enables businesses to work together for shared outcomes. We strongly support this collaboration and the impact the BID has as a result.”