TEST Valley Borough Council has decided to exercise all its votes in favour of approving the proposal of Andover Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) to continue its operations for a further five years.

In a significant decision made during the council's cabinet meeting on Wednesday, October 4, the councillors voted unanimously in favour of supporting the proposals in the BID ballot.

The current Andover BID was established in 2019, with approval for its operations lasting until March 2024. Andover Town Centre BID Limited, responsible for managing the BID since its inception, has now prepared proposals for the next five years, from April 2024 to March 2029, encompassing an expanded area including the town centre and the vicinity around Anton Mill Road.

The council is arranging a ballot to decide whether these proposals would be approved by the affected businesses, culminating in a six-week voting period ending on Thursday, November 2.

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As a ratepayer for 23 properties within the proposed BID area, the council holds the right to cast 23 votes out of 242 in the BID ballot. The council's properties account for rateable values totalling £1.1m out of a total of £10.9m.

If the BID proposals are approved, the council would be responsible for a BID levy of approximately £20,000 per year, a cost already factored into the base budget.

The business plan put forth by Andover BID proposes several initiatives, including the continuation of existing projects and the introduction of new ones aimed at enhancing the town's safety, addressing climate change, and diversifying funding sources.

During the cabinet meeting, the members considered three options: to exercise all votes in favour of approving the BID proposals; to exercise all votes against approval; or to abstain completely from voting.

Ultimately, the council voted in favour of Option 1, indicating clear support for the BID's second term and its ambitious business plan.

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Cabinet members cited the importance of supporting the local business community and leveraging the BID's potential to enhance the town centre's vitality and growth.

Cllr David Drew said: "We should be supporting the BID and using all of our votes in favour to demonstrate our leadership and to support all the businesses, particularly the business leaders out there who want to make a difference to this town."

To prepare for the decision on how to exercise these votes, an engagement exercise with the local business community was conducted in July.

While 27 businesses participated in the discussions, it was acknowledged that this represented only a small cross-section of the town centre's business community.

Cllr Phil North emphasised the significance of using the council's votes, and said: "If we decided that we don't use any of our votes, what sort of message is that sending out to those businesses? We had an engagement exercise with businesses in a deliberative way. We'd hope that more businesses would have taken part in that process, but a good number did, and that showed that there was positivity for the proposal. I've spoken to businesses, and they told me that we should use our votes. After all, we pay our share to the BID, and so we should show leadership."

There are around 250 levy payers in the BID area which all get the opportunity to vote in the BID ballot.