Like every other high street across the country, Port Talbot’s town centre has been buffeted by the rise in internet and out of town shopping, drawing shoppers away from the town centre. This, coupled with less money in our pockets and a decline in consumer spending, has meant our high street has seen tough trading times in recent years.

But high streets have been fighting back with Business Improvement Districts (BID), an initiative that can breathe fresh-life into town centres and reinvigorate the high street by driving up footfall.

Since their inception over 300 BIDs have been established across the UK, thirteen of them here in Wales. From the Big Heart Of Swansea and FOR Cardiff to Neath Inspired and Bridgend’s CF31, local businesses have come together to drive change and deliver additional services to their local area. Soon businesses in Port Talbot will have the opportunity to shape and develop their own BID.

A BID can improve Port Talbot’s individuality, safety and appearance, helping to bring more business, jobs and vitality to the town.

It can be a powerful tool that allows the local business community, working with other partners such as the local authority and police, to improve the local trading environment. Crucially though, BIDs are business led, so it’ll be the businesses, the people who are the heart and soul of our town centre, who will decide what improvements they want to make to the town and what services and projects will add value to the area.

Different BIDs have used the money they generate for a variety of initiatives. They can subsidise parking like ‘Free after 3pm’ in Neath, or a gift card scheme such as the one in Bridgend. They can help to tackle anti-social behaviour, provide funding for Christmas lights or put on events to draw people into the town centre.

Marketing through a BID can create a real buzz and positive image for the area, generating more visitors and greater support for the local economy.

Llanelli’s recent Dinosaur Day, organised by their BID Ymlaen Llanelli, brought in 24,000 visitors, while Neath’s Food Festival, which is supported by Neath Inspired, attracted 60,000 people to the town last year

This is all funded through a small levy on the rateable value of business premises within the BID area, the money is ring-fenced and used to deliver the BID objectives. In Neath they have generated £500,000 worth of spending in the town centre for the next 5 years, while Bridgend raised £480,000 to spend over three years.

A BID is formed through a ballot of local businesses within the BID area. Port Talbot’s proposed BID area would stretch from the Plaza, up Station Road, taking in the pedestrianised part of Forge Road, Tesco and Tesco petrol station, the Civic Centre, Aberafan Shopping Centre and down to Blancos. The nucleus of the Port Talbot high street.

For the BID to come into existence a simple majority of those voting must be in favour and their votes must also represent a majority of the aggregate rateable value of the properties that have voted. Once created the BID could run for up to five years, after which a further ballot would be needed for it to continue.

At a recent meeting I held with local businesses there was real positivity and optimism about a Port Talbot BID. Everyone was passionate about making a difference in the town centre, turning it into a place that businesses and visitors want to come to, where they can enjoy spending time, and somewhere to be proud of.

From Swansea to Neath and Bridgend, Port Talbot is surrounded by high streets that have grasped the opportunity to establish a BID, and they’ve benefitted greatly from taking that chance. Port Talbot’s time has come, we need to grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Any business wishing to get involved should contact Mandy Jenkins, The Means on

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