TOWN centre organisation Living Lerwick has unveiled a promotional video [see below] showcasing what the area has to offer ahead of learning whether local firms will give their backing to a four-year extension of its business improvement district (BID).
Local filmmaker JJ Jamieson shot the footage during the recent Lerwick Shopping Week, and used the services of local poet James Sinclair to create the video’s voiceover. In its first day online the clip was viewed over 19,000 times and shared by 331 people.
Christena Irvine of Living Lerwick is urging local businesses to vote in favour of a second BID term, describing it as a chance to take charge of their own future.
“If the vote is yes, the next month or two will be about planning how best to achieve what we, as businesses in the town centre, want to achieve,” she said.
“We are looking at holding tactical planning sessions where all the businesses can get involved. We’ll be looking for input on the best ways to achieve the projects set out in the business plan, whilst getting the maximum benefit for everyone out of the budget available.“
She said therer had been more videos planned previously, but the project was sidelined due to budget cuts. That was partly related to issues with “some businesses not contributing and problems with levy collection”, but now the majority of levies have come in the video project has been reinstated.
Irvine said the start of the first BID term coincided with Shetland Islands Council cutting “nearly all of their non-statutory service provision”.
“This hit Lerwick town centre hard and the cuts caused unexpected expenses and problems for Living Lerwick during the first term,” she said.
“A lot of time has been spent resolving the issues and building up the partnership with the SIC, which should set Living Lerwick up for a much smoother second BID term.”
In a foreword to the business plan for term two, Living Lerwick chairman Gary Bain talks of how changes emanating from “shrinking budgets, traffic calming, the school moving and changing policies [mean] we are all looking at challenging times”.
He says that makes it all the more essential for local businesses to club together and maximise the chances of “improving and enlivening our historic town centre”.
The business plan sets out a host of initiatives – including shopping week, the winter festival, Christmas lights and trees, gutter cleaning, a summer flower scheme, WorldHost destination status, a heritage trail and mobile app – which would be lost if businesses vote no to extending the BID.
Local firms pay a compulsory levy based on the rateable value of their property ranging from £200 to £850 a year. That levy – which has been the source of some grumbles among firms that are less supportive of Living Lerwick’s efforts – is projected to generate £71,050 a year between now and 2021 to be spent on the BID area.
The district covers the area from Cee & Jays shop to the Queen’s Hotel, and also includes Lerwick Town Hall and George Robertson’s electrical shop on the Hillhead.
Irvine said there had been a welcome injection of young blood in recent years, with small-scale entrepreneurs increasingly “seeing the bigger picture”.
George Robertson’s requested to be involved in Living Lerwick even though they were outwith the geographical, while new businesses such as Aa’ Firedup, Love From Shetland and the Island Larder had recognised the importance of providing an “experience” over and above simply shopping by laying on specialist classes.
Pointing out that every £1 spent in a local shop provides a £1.63 boost to the local economy, she said Living Lerwick was committed to encouraging businesses and the community to interact, creating a “feel-good factor” about buying products locally.
She added that plans were afoot, with the council’s help, for a large-scale funding application to spruce the town up – including things like railings in the lanes and low carbon lighting – which would have to be centred on a specific building.
Along with chairman Bain and VisitScotland’s Steve Mathieson (who is vice chairman), Living Lerwick’s board of directors features Ben Mullay of the Camera Centre, Stewart Jamieson of Harry’s Department Store, Joe Christie of LHD and KGQ Hotels’ Frances Richardson.
- The deadline for businesses to cast their vote for or against a second BID term for Living Lerwick is 5pm on Thursday (24 August).
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