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Living Lerwick renewed for another four years

Lerwick's Commercial Street.Lerwick's Commercial Street.

TOWN centre businesses have narrowly voted in favour of extending Living Lerwick’s business improvement district (BID) for another four years.

Ballot results released on Friday revealed that there was just nine votes in it.

A total of 89 votes were cast, with 49 firms in favour of renewing the BID and 40 against. There are 143 non-domestic properties in the area.

In June, Shetland Islands Council – which has six properties in the area – agreed to vote in favour of keeping the BID, although it signalled its intent to withdraw its £20,000 a year core funding.

In statement released after the results, Living Lerwick expressed a desire to work with those who voted against renewal in the coming weeks and months.

Living Lerwick's BID manager Christena Irvine. Photo: Neil Riddell/Shetland News

The BID covers the area from the Cee & Jays sports shop to the Queen’s Hotel, and also includes Lerwick Town Hall and George Robertson’s electrical shop on the Hillhead.

Living Lerwick, which has overseen the BID since its first term started in 2013, aims to “create a more vibrant, viable and sustainable town centre”.

It brings together local businesses to host events like Shopping Week and Christmas celebrations, while it has also spruced up the appearance of Commercial Street.

There has been an element of frustration emanating from some town centre firms, however, which felt they were not getting value for money from being part of Living Lerwick.

They pay a compulsory levy based on the rateable value of their property ranging from £200 to £850 a year, and it is projected to generate £71,050 a year between now and 2021 to be spent on the BID area.

The organisation was also criticised for its Christmas tree last year – which hit national media – and for its role in the increasing pedestrianisation of the street.

Earlier this week Living Lerwick released a promotional video shot by local filmmaker JJ Jamieson to show what Commercial Street has to offer.

Living Lerwick said in response to the ballot results: “The project management team and directors of the Lerwick BID would like to thank all those members who voted positively in the recent ballot to determine whether the BID should go to a second stage and who have shown confidence in the ability of the BID model to continue improving what is on offer in the town centre by encouraging businesses to work together.

“We would also like to reach out to those businesses who have not been convinced that the BID is suitable for them and appeal for them to work with us for the greater good of all.

“There are such a variety of businesses within the BID area and we need each sector to be represented, so why not come forward, be part of our board of directors and help ensure that all sectors have a voice?

“Now that we have been mandated to continue we will start working immediately to ensure that the vision laid out in the business plan comes to fruition and that Lerwick continues to improve as a thriving centre of trade and a town centre that Shetlanders are proud of.”

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021