At test­ing times like these, we all must strive to work to­gether

Midweek Visiter - - Southport Bid -

HAPPY New Year to ev­ery­one from the BID team. First the dis­ap­point­ing news: by all ac­counts it’s been a tough 2018 for sales – so much so that the chair­man of Deben­hams has been quoted as say­ing that last year was the worst that he could re­mem­ber.

The news about HMV go­ing into ad­min­is­tra­tion, whilst not to­tally un­ex­pected, cast fur­ther gloom on high streets across the coun­try.

Look­ing at the re­tail chains that shut dur­ing 2018 (Toys R Us, Maplin, Pound­world and oth­ers) it’s clear that re­tail is be­ing fun­da­men­tally trans­formed.

Too many shops, of­ten in the wrong lo­ca­tions; a change in the way we shop; ris­ing costs; and a weaker pound are all con­tribut­ing fac­tors af­fect­ing the re­tail sec­tor.

One in ev­ery £5 we spend is now on­line and that fig­ure is in­creas­ing as more and more of us use our smart phones and tablets to buy prod­ucts more cheaply and more con­ve­niently.

That means fewer and fewer peo­ple com­ing into town to buy things.

We’ve said it many times be­fore: if town cen­tres are to sur­vive then they need to be able of­fer some­thing more in or­der to en­tice peo­ple back.

Cheaper and flex­i­ble park­ing ar­range­ments is one such mea­sure.

So is of­fer­ing a greater va­ri­ety of at­trac­tions and en­ter­tain­ment as well as mak­ing bet­ter use of what al­ready ex­ists.

So, here’s some good news to start the year off: a new fund­ing pot to fi­nance in­no­va­tive ideas that can help re-en­er­gise the high street.

Last Novem­ber the Chan­cel­lor re­vealed plans for a high street in­vest­ment fund worth around £640m, the idea be­ing that lo­cal author­i­ties could de­velop in­no­va­tive ways of reen­gag­ing with their high streets and then bid for a share of the fund to make it hap­pen.

Read­ing through the prospec­tus (pub­lished at the end of last month) it’s clear that the Gov­ern­ment ex­pects the pri­vate sec­tor to pay a key part in de­vel­op­ing any pro­posal.

Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­tricts are specif­i­cally men­tioned as be­ing a key part­ner and it’s clear from best prac­tice else­where that those ar­eas with BIDs stand a bet­ter chance of ac­cess­ing fund­ing.

The fund­ing is not guar­an­teed of course.

But a suc­cess­ful pri­vate pub­lic town cen­tre part­ner­ship model (which is what a BID es­sen­tially is) is in a great po­si­tion to sub­mit a suc­cess­ful fund­ing ap­pli­ca­tion.

In May we will be ask­ing busi­nesses in the town cen­tre to vote in favour of a new five-year term for the BID.

If the vote is in favour then we can con­tinue to work to­gether to im­prove our town cen­tre.

If the vote is No then the fu­ture for our town cen­tre is more un­cer­tain.

South­port Deben­hams: some stores may welll be shut – it has not yet been de­cided which

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