INTERVIEW: Terry Guest – Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager

Words & pics by Ed King

“The main plan and priority have to be now… increased security, we have to emphasise to the police and the Council the importance of providing the necessary security for this High Street and the support for our Warden.”

On Friday 12 November the future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) will be known, as voting to renew the organisation finishes on Thursday this week.

Over the past month, local shop owners and businesses have been casting paper ballots ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – a vote which if successfully passed will see the Erdington BID in place for another half decade.

Each business that falls within the catchment area – which stretches from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road – pays 1.75% of their rateable value to finance the BID, which stands as ‘a partnership between the business community and other local stakeholders… helping to sustain Erdington as a vibrant urban village.’

Initially voted in by local businesses in 2007, Erdington BID’s current five year term is set to expire in July 2022.

Terry Guest has been Erdington BID & Town Centre Manager since assuming the roll in 2011. He explained the organisation’s responsibilities:

“It’s twofold these days. One of the things that the BID has always done is put the basics in place – such as security, the Christmas lights, hanging baskets.

“But the BID has also done its own projects, such as the garden area we created next to the library – that was a project that proved very popular.

“One of the things I’m keen to do is to expand that green aspect of the High Street… so that anyone there can actually sit down and relax and have something of a more pleasant view than just concrete.

“There’s that sort of basic thing. But the other side of it now is that the BID has become more of a voice – a voice with the Government and a voice with the Council. And we need that now more than ever.”

Erdington High Street has recently seen applications rejected for two multi-million pounds pots of Government investment, missing out on the Levelling Up Fund in October and the Future High Street Fund back in January.

If successful, each application would have seen over £50m pumped into the High Street from the private and public sector.

Terry added: “We’ve been behind both the Levelling Up Fund and Future High Streets Fund applications, which have failed so far – but we’re not stopping at that. In the future, what the BID is evolving into, and has been for some time, is to be a voice with the Government and the Council.

“Which is important, because we know that both governments and councils recognise BIDs – and that’s becoming a larger part of it, where we have to make our voice be heard and get the best deal for businesses.”

But the fate of the Erdington BID still hangs in the balance, as local businesses ultimately vote and pay for the organisation’s next five years – a levy of around £116,000 per annum. And as in any election there are mandates and manifestos.

“One is policing,” explained Terry. “We’ve been involved very heavily in getting a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) put in place for the High Street – which, when we’ve got that in, allow us, allows anyone, to contact the police to remove anyone who is causing anti-social behaviour. Drug deals, minor crime, and so on.

“We’ve seen since 2018, when the last PSPO was cancelled, that really the aspect of working with the police is incredibly important. As it is with the Council, such as the state of the roads and pavements, the fly tipping and so on – a big portion of my job (as Town Centre Manager) these days is walking up and down the High Street taking photos of rubbish, then reporting it to the Council.”

Fly tipping and anti-social behaviour are problems raised by people across the constituency. But what can the Erdington BID do to tackle these issues on the High Street?

“What I think the BID has done… and I had evidence about this in an email from Birmingham City Council this morning about the PSPO, is that the BID has been very active in raising these issues and perhaps now getting some results.

“We’ve had a few incidents on the High Street recently which has caused me to react to the slowness of the police and Council to act in this (reinstating the PSPO).

“We are now at the stage where the Council have issued a press release and a notice of public consultation about the PSPO

“So, we’re at that stage, we will go into a public consultation about this. Not quick enough for me, whenever it is.

“I pressed the councillors about this, and I was told it could be pushed towards the end of the year.

“The original promise, by the Council earlier in the year, is that this would be done and dusted by the 30 September. To me it’s three years too late, not three months too late.”

But Erdington BID does more than tackle crime and disorder on the High Street, as the organisation allots £20000 per annum to ‘marketing, events, and promotion’ – including the long standing Christmas lights switch on.

“What we’ve also taken to doing in the last few years is sponsoring other people’s events,” explained Terry.

“So, when Oikos Café have a street event we’ve sponsored that in the past. When St Barnabas Church have their village fayre in the middle of the summer – before lockdown – we sponsored that as well. So, there’s number of ways we can promote ourselves.

“This year we’re not going to have a Christmas lights switch on… I would have had to order the lights a few months ago, when our futures were all in doubt; we didn’t know if we were going to get another lockdown so we had to abandon that.

“But there is a proviso in the business plan that if we have money somewhere that we can’t spend, then we’ll put it somewhere else.

“For instance, it’s about time we had some new litter bins on the High Street – we could perhaps finance that if we haven’t got the event money (for the Christmas lights switch on).”

But the main priority for the Erdington BID, if re-elected this week, remains a firm hand on crime and disorder – seeing anti-social behaviour on the High Street as a systemic problem.

“The main plan and priority have to be now… increased security, we have to emphasise to the police and the Council the importance of providing the necessary security for this High Street and the support for our Warden.

“The ideal is that we want daily police patrols back on the High Street and our Warden in support of those, rather than him being so proactive.

“I’m keen to get the High Street looking greener than it is; I’m keen to get more awareness of the High Steet out to the shoppers.

“But the shoppers need to feel it’s a safe place to walk up and down, or a safe place to sit on a bench and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the scenery.”

For more on the Erdington Business Improvement District visit www.erdingtonhighstreet.co.uk

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