In a ballot which closed at 5.00pm this evening [5th October], Oban businesses have voted overwhelmingly to create Scotland’s first ‘whole town’ Business Improvement District (BID) in the town.
The initiative will encompass Oban’s entire 30mph speed limit zone.
Unsurprisingly, the news was met with jubilation by those who have campaigned for several years to establish such a scheme.
Foremost among them was Graham MacQueen, chair of the BID4Oban Steering Group which drew up the five year business plan following consultation with all eligible businesses. He says: ‘This is a landmark day in the future of our town, and I’m thrilled that business owners across Oban have given the BID their vote of confidence.
”Ploughing a minimum of £840,000 into our trading environment over the next few years is no longer just an aspiration. It’s a reality. That’s something I think the whole town should be very excited about.
‘BID co-ordinator Pauline Cameron deserves particular mention, because without her efforts and perseverance we would never have got to this point. She has been absolutely central to this project and I know I speak for every member of the Steering Group when I say how grateful we are to her for professionalism and efficiency throughout the process.
‘I would also like to personally thank the hard core of Steering Group members who have stuck with this proposal through thick and thin. There have been some challenging times along the way, but they never wavered in their conviction that this would be a positive move for Oban and I’m delighted that their perseverance and dedication has paid off.
‘This ballot represented a unique opportunity for Oban’s business community to take their future into its own hands. That’s a challenge it has now shown it’s prepared to take on.
The BID will make a real and lasting difference to our town. I very much look forward to being a part of it.
The ballot results announced tonight show:
- 90% of the votes cast (by number) were in favour of the BID
- 89% of the votes cast (by rateable value) were in favour of the BID
- total number of votes cast was 246
- 49% turnout by number
- 57% turnout by rateable value
The scheme will officially get going on 31st October when an Oban BID company, BID4Oban Limited, will come into operation to run for a period of five years.
Nominations will be invited from all Levy payers for the new BID company’s board of directors, with letters going out within the next week explaining the next steps.
The BID will involve every business with a rateable value property of £3,000 or over within its boundary paying a modest but compulsory annual Levy towards a range of projects and services designed to boost the local economy and have far reaching benefits for the wider community.
These amount to more than 20 separate commitments, set down in the BID’s five year Business Plan.
Among them are a £60,000 business frontage grants scheme, a £90,000 new ‘out of season’ events/festivals budget, a £50,000 marketing grant scheme focused on promoting family activities and a total of £80,000 on new decorative street lighting.
The BID is committed to ensuring that even Oban’s smallest businesses, whose properties do not meet the Levy criteria, will have the opportunity to have their voices heard. The BID team has already signalled its intention to invite small businesses, exempted organisations and those operating outside its boundary, who wish to support positive changes to the town, to become BID associate members through making a voluntary subscription.
Graham MacQueen says – and you can hear the elation in his words: : ‘The more who would like to have their say in how the BID progresses, the better, No-one will be excluded from being able to play their part in transforming our town.
‘This is the first BID in Scotland to encompass the entire 30mph speed limit zone of its host town or city. So – given that even the smallest enterprises will be encouraged to join up – it’s the first in the country which genuinely promises to involve and include all businesses in a town regardless of their size, trading sector or geographical location.
‘This is a momentous decision for Oban, and promises to kick start a robust new phase in the town’s trading history overseen by a committed, engaged business community.’
The plans and the political responses
It has taken more than two years for the BID to be developed and the ballot completed.
In its initial stages, the BID4Oban team devoted several months to consulting with all businesses within the proposed BID boundary. Their views on the key issues formed the basis of the six objectives on which the Business Plan is based, which are:
- Making the best first impression by improving the physical environment
- Co-ordinating a programme of events and festivals throughout the year
- Increasing the number of events to extend the season
- Maximising the town’s assets to attract more visitors
- Bringing businesses together to speak with one voice
- Improving accessibility and parking
The scheme has already won all-party support from both local and national politicians.
Argyll and Bute Council leader, Councillor Roddy McCuish, says that Oban businesses has now set a benchmark to which other towns and communities across the region could aspire. ‘What this ballot has shown isn’t just that Oban businesses care about their trading environment and would like to improve it.
‘It also shows that they’re prepared to put their hands in their pockets and join forces to work together in order to achieve the very best that they can for themselves, each other and the town as a whole.
‘I’d like to congratulate all those who have worked so hard to see this plan come to fruition. Their dedication and commitment has ensured that Oban can now embark on a new course, developed and steered by the local businesses themselves.
‘This is the first BID to be rolled out in Argyll and Bute, and I am confident it won’t be the last. Those in the pipeline will now have the benefit of seeing how the Oban project progresses and the benefits it brings – not just to local businesses but to the town as a whole.
‘Argyll and Bute Council is delighted to be a part of this groundbreaking scheme, and we look forward to working with the new BID Company to ensure that it secures the maximum possible return for Oban.’
Local MSP Michael Russell said the BID would develop and support a vibrant, progressive town centre: ‘This is a fantastic result for Oban. The promise of at least £840,000 being spent on the issues which local businesses most want to see tackled is a real boost to the town, and the commitments already set down in the business plan are likely to trigger further investment from other sources.
‘Schemes such as this show just what can be achieved when businesses come together and work in partnership towards a common goal. There are already BIDs up and running across Scotland which are having a significant impact on the towns and cities in which they are operating. ‘I am delighted that Oban is now going to join that group, and I look forward to seeing the BID making an impact and for the town to continue to go from strength to strength in the future.’
Jamie McGrigor MSP, Argyll-based Highlands and Islands MSP, welcomed the result, ssaying: ‘This is wonderful news – not just for Oban’s business community but for everyone who lives in, works in and visits the town.
‘The projects set out in the BID amount to a comprehensive action plan designed to boost the local trading environment which will, at the same time, also benefit all those with an interest in Oban and its future.
‘I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this result.
‘Tonight sees Oban embarking on a new path and I – along with everyone else who wants it to achieve its full potential as one of the region’s key business and tourism hubs – will be willing it on every step of the way.’
Full information on the ballot result can be found at the BID4Oban website.