SUPPORTERS of the BID see it as an initiative to bring the town together and provide a much-welcomed boost to Andover businesses.

Through a fee paid for by the companies included in the district, the Andover BID is looking to generate £191,764 annually in its five-year term, and has set out a number of plans to deliver a boost to the town centre, based on consultations carried out.

These include improving footfall, smartening up the look of empty units, creating shopwatch and leisurewatch schemes, putting on events, and marketing campaigns.

READ: Anti-BID campaigners believe initiative will hurt businesses

Beverly Botha, owner of the Travelling Cupcake and Lucy’s Kitchen, sits on the BID steering group and sees it as a chance to get pro-active.

Ms Botha said: “The Travelling Cupcake and Lucy’s Kitchen are local businesses where I rely on footfall and dwell time. I take pride in my shops and my customers are very important to me and my future.

“I can’t afford to hope the High Street is busy, I can’t rely on people just coming into town. I need to constantly invest in my shops, ensuring I am offering the best possible product along with the best service I can.

“So, working with local businesses as one voice, I think we can be much stronger together than as a single retailer. The BID is business led, driving improvements for our market town. We have our own voice and can have what we want to.”

Christine Mellor of David Mellor Jewellers is another business owner in favour despite the fact the family-run company would have to pay a levy on three properties.

She said: “We’re prepared to ‘take a punt’ on an initiative which, given the wherewithal in terms of funding and pro-active execution of same, could see a return on that investment in due time.

“We were, however, dismayed to learn that the levy is charged on empty units and unfortunately we currently have two in Waterloo Court so a triple whammy for us.

“But, forever optimistic, just maybe the BID initiatives will attract new tenants or a buyer.

“Our levy will be in the order of £1,100 but we will, I understand receive a shopwatch radio - we currently pay £485 per year under the ABAC scheme.

“A little tweaking of our marketing budget and that’s the levy covered, put simply.”

Andover BID, working with consultation company CMS, which has so far been commissioned to the tune of £36,975 by Test Valley Borough Council to carry out the process, has said 207 likely levy-payers were involved in research to set out priorities.

The BID prospectus released this week details plans for the first six months including identifying business-friendly car park options with the borough council, looking for potential savings through bulk purchasing, introducing public Wi-Fi in High Street, and providing two rent-free pop up shops for the first 12 months.

Simplyhealth’s chief operating officer Richard Gillies says the company has seen how a BID can have a positive impact in other areas, such as Winchester where the firm also has an office, and hopes to see the same in Andover.

Mr Gillies said: “We want to see Andover town centre thrive and become a destination location to work, live and shop.

“We appreciate that every town has its own unique needs, and that is why we wish to work with the BID and other businesses to help Andover flourish.”

BID-generated funds will be ring-fenced solely for spending within the district, and it expects 14 per cent of its expenditure to be operating costs.

Within the five years, of its priority areas, “improving perceptions” and “raising the profile” are estimated to be the largest costs, with spends of £280,000 and £425,000 respectively.

Kevin Paterson, chief executive of Valley Leisure and vice chair of the BID Steering Group, said: “The BID will provide a co-ordinated voice for the 250 plus businesses on the High Street and will carry more weight - whether it is to influence the local authority to review parking options, look at opportunities for bulk purchase of energy/waste removal for businesses or provide co-ordinated marketing campaigns on behalf of local shops.

“It may even encourage local landlords to review rentals and inflexible terms to make it easier for businesses to open up shops on our High Street.

“I would like to encourage all businesses to embrace the concept of the BID and get involved in working together with an overriding purpose, which is to improve footfall and dwell time which will ultimately benefit our local businesses and town.”

Lisa Armstrong, chair of Andover BID steering group and company director of Active Staff added: “Today is the first day of the 28 day voting period for the Andover BID.

“I am excited to have shared the business prospectus with all levy payers.

“I truly believe that these proposals are a real opportunity to take the promotion and perception of Andover town centre to a new level.

“It is crucial for our town that we maximise all voting opportunities. It is your town centre and this would be your BID and your ‘Yes’ vote really does count. I would like to thank all businesses for their vote over the next 28 days.”

CMS received a 53.7 per cent survey response rate in consulting businesses earlier this year, which goes beyond the 50 per cent threshold recommended nationally.