NEWS: Erdington Business Improvement District voted back for another five year term

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington Business Improvement District has been successfully voted back for another five year term, receiving a landside endorsement from High Street retailers and the local business community.

With voting taking place over the last four weeks, Friday 12 November saw the final results counted – returning nearly 74% in favour for renewing the Erdington BID, with 45 of the 61 votes cast by local businesses saying ‘yes’.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business to help promote commerce in the area – as well as tackling civic concerns such as street safety, crime, and fly tipping.

Erdington BID has also become a voice for the local business community, one able to challenge Birmingham City Council and Government over issues that affect Erdington High Street and local traders.

Recently, Erdington missed out on two multi-million pound funds from central government to regenerate the High Street – being rejected for the Levelling Up Fund in October, and the Future High Streets Fund back in January.

But local stakeholders, including Erdington BID, remain committed to finding other ways of attracting the long fought for financing to transform the High Street.

Terry Guest has been Erdington Town Centre and BID Manager since assuming the role back in 2011, successfully taking the BID into it’s now fourth term and generating over £100,000 per annum for investment into the High Street.

Following the results of the vote, Terry told Erdington Local: “I’ve been greatly encouraged this week by the number of businesses that offered support face to face, but you never know how these things are going to turn out.

“Walking down the High Street I am struck by how many shops we’ve got that are full; we don’t have a lot of empty shops and I think our percentage (of empty units), around 4%, is one of the lowest in the country. So, we must be doing something right.

“We’ve now attracted Poundstretcher to the High Street, in a massive unit that used to be occupied by New Look. So, it shows that shops here (on Erdington High Street) aren’t staying empty for very long.

When asked if he had a message for local businesses that took part in the vote, Terry added:

“A great big thank you – a great big thank you whether you voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it’s a democracy and if you voted ‘no’ we’d like to engage you and find out if we can do things better.”

Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden also sits as Director of the Erdington BID.

Cllr Robert Alden said: “The Town Centre Manager Terry Guest does a huge amount of work for Erdington and the size of this ballot, almost 74% in favour of a further term, demonstrates just how highly his work and the BID is viewed locally in Erdington.

“The BID brings in around £100,000 of funding ringfenced to Erdington High Street area, every year. It was therefore vital that this was renewed to ensure that measures like the additional security continued going forward.

“The BID is a key part of the ongoing efforts to try and improve and regenerate Erdington High Street and to make it safer for residents.”

During the campaign to renew the Erdington BID, plans for the next five years were outlined if the vote was successful – with extra policing and increased High Street security very much a priority.

Robert added: “Looking ahead over the next five year term a key focus is going to be on trying to help regenerate Erdington and make the High Street cleaner, safer and more welcoming. To support existing businesses and to attract further ones into Erdington.

“Erdington is an amazing place with a brilliant community and we will keep doing all we can to help the BID deliver for local businesses and residents”.

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

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

NEWS: Erdington loses out on Levelling Up millions as the only Birmingham bid to fail at the first round

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington High Street lost out on millions of pounds of investment today when its application for the Government’s Levelling Up Fund fell at the first round – as announced in the Chancellor’s Spending Review.

One of four applications made by Birmingham City Council, Erdington High Street’s bid was the only one to be denied at this stage – despite being for the lowest amount of money.

The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion national pot of money earmarked by Government for regional investment into local infrastructure.

The Levelling Up Fund application for Erdington High Street was at £12,700,000 – with further investment coming from the private sector, including the transformation of Central Square into a destination venue of shops, cafes, bars, and apartments.

Birmingham’s other bids, which have all made it through the first round, include £19,941,000 for the A457 Dudley Road Improvement Scheme, £17,145,000 for the Wheels site remediation, and £15,539,000 for Moseley Road Swimming Baths.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Following the news, Erdington MP Jack Dromey (Lab) issued the following statement:

“Once again, the Government has failed to provide the investment Erdington High Street so desperately needs. This decision flies in the face of their ‘levelling up’ rhetoric and badly lets down one of the poorest communities in the country.

“This investment would have provided an invaluable economic, social and cultural boost to our community, as well as providing employment opportunities for Erdington, which has an unemployment rate that stands at twice the national average.

“But this is not the first time Government has let Erdington down. Following the rejection of the Future High Streets Fund bid on Boxing Day, we continued to seek investment in our High Street.

“Working together with Birmingham City Council, key local stakeholders, and the local community, we submitted this comprehensive and ambitious bid to the Levelling Up Fund complete with a solid business case and significant private investment.

“This makes the decision to deny Erdington of investment once again outrageous and inexplicable.”

Erdington ward Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore (Con) made the following statements:

Cllr Robert Alden said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision.

“When the Council took the four bids for Birmingham through cabinet, we warned that the Council providing £15m of match funding for the other three bids and nothing for Erdington would weaken the application and give the impression to civil servants that the Council clearly considered the bid to be less important than the other four.

“Sadly, that is exactly what seems to have happened”.

Cllr Gareth Moore added “The Council administration refusing to put match funding into the Erdington bid, was always a kick in the teeth for the hard work of local partners like the Erdington BID, Witton Lodge Community Association, regeneration officers who worked on the bid, businesses, developers and community and church groups.

“So, to now see that the three bids the Council did match fund were approved and that the Council refusal to match fund Erdington has potentially cost Erdington is disgraceful.

“However, a massive thank you to all the partners and officers involved who have been helping fight for Erdington”.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, another cross party and local stakeholder application, which would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

 

NEWS: Erdington businesses to vote on future of Business Improvement District

Words & pics by Ed King

The future of the Erdington Business Improvement District (Erdington BID) hangs in the balance as local businesses vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for another five year term.

Local shop owners and businesses within the catchment area have until November 11 to cast their vote – which will decide future of the Erdington BID after June 2022.

Erdington BID represents businesses from Six Ways to Edwards Road, including all shops fronts on Erdington High Street and Sutton New Road.

Charging members 1.75% of the rateable value of their business, if re-elected the Erdington BID expects to generate £116,000 per year from 2022 to 2027 to help promote and support commerce in the area.

In Erdington BID’s five year forecast, if re-elected the organisation would allocate an annual sum of £26000 towards security, £20000 towards marketing, events and promotion, and £8000 to keeping the streets clean.

£42700 per annum would be spent on Erdington BID itself, paying for a ‘town centre manager, admin, finance, and business support’. A further £3000 each year would be used to pay back Birmingham City Council for loans to cover ‘renewal expenses’.

Terry Guest, Erdington BID and Town Centre Manager, told Erdington Local: “Priorities over the next five years will be to continue to make the town centre a safe and secure place to visit and shop.

“If successful, the BID will increase our warden presence in the area to six days from five, increase shops radio coverage for greater security, and to work with the local police and council to renew the Public Space Protection Order for the area, which empowers police to remove potentially threatening groups and troublemakers.

“We will also continue to press for town centre improvements to modernise the High Street and to work with the council, property owners and developers to that end – and to ensure that funding for such projects will be sought.

“We are also looking at increasing green areas in the town centre – a look at the garden next to the library – projected by the BID – which shows what can be done in small spaces.

“Above all, we will continue to work with ou business owners to ensure that Erdington town centre gets the best deal in creating a quality local High Street fit for the future.”

But opinion on the High Street is split, with business owners divided over whether Erdington BID warrants the annual six figure sum.

In a recent survey conducted by Erdington Local, nine out of 18 business confirmed they would vote ‘yes’ to grant Erdington BID another five year term – with the remaining nine unsure or voting ‘no’.

When the same businesses were asked if the Erdington BID ‘adds value to the High Street’ five answered ‘yes’. Six answered ‘yes’ when asked if Erdington BID was ‘helpful to business during the COVID lockdowns?’

Terry Guest added: “I think we maintained a good working relationship with businesses during the lockdown periods, not forgetting that a large number of our retailers were qualified to remain open and trading.

“The job of the BID during the lockdowns was to ensure that the town centre was a healthy place to visit, and with the help of the council, we were able to do that.

“We also worked with businesses in ensuring that all funding help was available to them – and we had a near 100% success rate with that.”

Further concerns were raised from local business about applications made for multi-million pound investment into Erdington, such as the failed Future High Street Fund and the pending Levelling Up Fund bids.

The Future High Street Fund would have seen up to £13m coming from Government and invested directly into Erdington High Steet.

But due to the final submission being deemed “not eligible” by the then Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall, Erdington lost out on what many believed was a strong application.

More recently, an application has been made to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund which would see £12.7million coming into Erdington.

But some local businesses are wary, with one shop owner stating: “I’ve been here for years and heard countless promises about investment into the High Street… but I’m still looking at the same cracked windows and flaking paint.”

When asked about the pending application, Terry Guest said: “I have to be confident of us getting the Levelling Up award, because the original application contained factors which have been scrutinised and amended – so I am looking forward to a positive result.”

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

NEWS: Erdington MP calls on Government ‘to ensure a decision is made’ over £12.7million Levelling Up Fund

Words & pics by Ed King

Erdington MP Jack Dromey has called on Government to ‘ensure a decision is made… as soon as possible’ over a £12.7million Levelling Up Fund investment into the High Street, Erdington Local can reveal.

In a letter issued to Michael Gove earlier today, Mr Dromey urged the recently appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to respond to Erdington’s bid – allowing Birmingham City Council and local stakeholders to ‘get on with the job of delivering the improvements to infrastructure Erdington so desperately needs.’

An application for the Levelling Up Fund was submitted by Birmingham City Council in June, which if successful would see a multi-million pound injection into Erdington High Street, but has so far received no response from Government.

One of the criteria for the Levelling Up Fund, a £4.8 billion national pot of money for investment into local infrastructure, is for any successful bid to ‘begin delivery on the ground in the 2021-22 financial year’.

With only 6 months to go until April, concerns are growing if a decision is not reached soon the ambitious plans for the High Street could become impossible to deliver.

In his letter to Michael Gove, Mr Dromey continued: ‘I always say that Erdington may be one of the poorest constituencies in the country, but we are rich in talent.

‘The determination, innovation, and passion of local people, especially in the face of adversity as we have seen recently, never ceases to amaze and inspire me. However, without investment we will never realise this potential to its fullest.’

To read the full letter sent by Jack Dromey MP to Michael Gove click here.

Erdington’s Levelling Up Fund bid was worked on by both Labour and Conservative politicians in the area – alongside key local stakeholders including Godwin Developments, Witton Lodge Community Association, and Erdington Business Improvement District.

Included in the bid were plans for a major redevelopment of Central Square, transformation of St Barnabas’s churchyard, and seeing the listed Erdington Baths turned into a cutting edge business hub.

Erdington recently missed out the Future High Streets Fund, an application made that would have seen over £50m pumped into the town centre in a joint investment from Government and the private sector.

Now the hopes for the High Street are pinned to the Levelling Up Fund, which would again see a £12.7million investment from Government topped up by the private sector.

Godwin Developments, who are looking to develop Central Square into a Brindley Place style destination venue of restaurants, cafes, and stylish accommodation, are keen to help transform Erdington High Street.

Matt Chandler, Development Director at Godwin Developments, told Erdington Local: “Erdington, with its young population, has great potential and the Levelling Up Fund would ensure that it is unlocked with a major boost from well-thought through schemes breathing life into the high street, providing places to live and community assets for years to come.

“The Fund would prove transformational for the area, creating economic, employment and cultural opportunities for residents and encouraging further inward investment.

“With the Commonwealth Games arriving in Birmingham next year, all areas of the city should receive the investment they deserve.”