City is making a BID to become regional leader

Supporters of the Business Improvement District in Lancaster city centre, from left, Paul Cusimano, Jonathan Barker, Jonathan Banks-Lyons and Richard Taylor.
Supporters of the Business Improvement District in Lancaster city centre, from left, Paul Cusimano, Jonathan Barker, Jonathan Banks-Lyons and Richard Taylor.

Since its inception in April 2013, Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) has brought some important financial benefits to the city, says chairman Paul Cusimano.

Mr Cusimano, owner of Joseph and Co in North Road, said the BID had enabled big city events to continue, and was one of the key factors in securing European funding for the Square Routes Project to regenerate the city centre.

“As with a lot of things, there’s always a lot of setting up involved, but we’ve had some brilliant successes already,” he said.

“For example, last year’s Lancaster Music Festival was just brilliant for businesses such as food outlets, take aways, pubs and hotels.

“It brought the city to a standstill for all the right reasons. The festival wasn’t going to run because it wasn’t cost effective, but BID stepped in and put money in and enabled the festival coordinator Ben Ruth to grow it.”

Mr Cusimano said some businesses that were dubious about the BID in the first instance are now very much involved in shaping its future.

The BID incorporates 320 businesses in Lancaster City Centre, and has a budget of just over £200,000 per year.

For a business with a rateable value of £20,000, being a member costs around £6 per week.

The BID has a management team of 16, with four different sub groups - events and promotion, finance, renewals, and improvements.

Mr Cusimano said: “One of the deciding factors for the Square Routes funding was that Lancaster had just passed the BID, and Europe liked that because it showed that the city had decided to work together with its own money.

“That half a million from Europe was match funded, and there is a strong link to the BID there. These are the financial benifits that the BID is enabling.

“Light Up Lancaster wouldn’t have happened without the private sector funding, which in turn was match funded, so £10,000 from BID and £70,000 worth of extra funding.

“People come for an event like that, who might not have come to Lancaster, so by putting events on it’s bringing people back to the city.

“If the city is open when we’ve got the Christmas lights switch on, and other events, you might not get a return on that day, but it’s an opportunity to showcase your business, increasing the likelihood of people coming back.

“We can’t promise to make businesses busier, but we can raise the profile, increase footfall, and then its down to the businesses to make things happen. We need to make good impressions - if the city looks vibrant, people will come back to shop.”

“If we show that Lancaster is a happening place to be, it brings more businesses in.

“If Lancaster hadn’t done something to help itself, then it could have ended up in dire straits. As it is it has weathered the recession and overall has done well.”

“There’s no reason we can’t be seen up there with the likes of Chester, York or Durham.”