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Business Improvement District chief urges West Berkshire to vote 'yes' for Newbury

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January is a busy month for us at Newbury BID as we prepare for our ballot, writes Newbury Business Improvement District chief executive Melissa Hughes.

On January 25, ballot papers will be sent to more than 500 levy-paying businesses in Newbury town centre, giving them the opportunity to decide whether to collectively fund our work as an independent, not-for-profit community interest company for a further five years.

This will be the BID’s third ballot after successful yes votes in 2011 and 2016.

CEO of Newbury Bid Melissa Hughes
CEO of Newbury Bid Melissa Hughes

It will take place over a four-week period, with the results due to be announced on February 25.

The stakes are high – a majority yes vote will ensure Newbury town centre benefits from over £1.2m of business investment over the next five years to improve the local trading environment.

This ring-fenced funding will be used to help visitors and businesses to discover Newbury, experience Newbury and partner in Newbury, with the aim of helping the town centre and its businesses thrive.

Newbury Victorian Market
Newbury Victorian Market

We are very excited about our five-year business plan, which has been published this week on our Visit Newbury website.

It has been put together following consultation with businesses and stakeholders, who we want to work with to take Newbury to the next level over the coming five years.

There’s a huge job to do to help Newbury recover from the effects of the pandemic.

It’s so important that the business community has a voice and a role in this work.

Newbury Victorian Market
Newbury Victorian Market

Without a majority yes vote, Newbury BID and the Visit Newbury brand will cease to exist on May 31, 2022.

There will no longer be any organisation marketing and shaping Newbury as a place, facilitating partnership working between local businesses, or giving the business community a collective voice.

Popular events such as the Christmas Lights Switch-On and Victorian Christmas Fayre will disappear (as well as the Christmas lights themselves!).

Newbury Christmas lights switch on and festival
Newbury Christmas lights switch on and festival

There will be no-one to manage the town centre’s CCTV or business crime reduction scheme, no access to free or discounted shared business services, and no-one to lobby on behalf of the business community at a strategic level to influence the future of Newbury town centre.

If the BID levy funding goes, Newbury will get left behind the 330-plus other towns, cities and places in the UK which operate a Business Improvement District.

Many of these BIDs had hugely successful ballot renewals in 2021, with businesses up and down the country seeing the benefits that being within a BID brings.

Some of our recent work really highlights these benefits and why a yes vote is vital for Newbury.

For example, the majority of Newbury’s Christmas experience is funded and managed by our small team here at the BID.

Our operations manager Alison almost singlehandedly organised the Christmas Lights Switch-On Festival for Newbury, creating the most fabulous programme of activities to draw people into town and maximise their dwell time throughout the day.

She was determined to ensure our levy payers benefitted as much as possible from the event.

Our marketing manager Kirsty designed and produced every single piece of marketing collateral for the event, including the fabulous programme, as well as securing tens of thousands of pounds in local and regional press coverage such as interviews with BBC Radio Berkshire and ITV News.

The event drew more than 10,000 additional visitors into the town centre throughout the day and, alongside our '12 Days of Newbury' Christmas marketing campaign, helped to ensure Newbury’s November 2021 footfall was all-but on a par with November 2019.

Newbury is very lucky to have such a talented team committed to making it a great place to live, work, visit, and do business.

If you run a levy-paying business, your yes vote can help to secure five more years of funding to retain this team and deliver projects such as these.

All the information you need about when and how to vote is available on the Visit Newbury website.

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