by Shaun Moloney
Members of Otley’s business community have pledged to rejuvenate their town by putting their hands in their own pockets.
The scheme, that could plough £350,000 into Otley over a five year period, was discussed at a full Leeds City Council meeting on Wednesday.
The plan is for participating businesses to contribute one percent of their rateable value into the pot – which will be used for regeneration projects, such as festivals, lights, sport events and improving Otley’s economic environment.
Up to 100 businesses have supported the idea as owners look to promote and bring pride to their town.
Rory McQuaid ,40, owner of The Ethical Jeweller said: “It is a fantastic chance for all businesses in Otley to pull together in one direction. It could drive improvements for everybody.”
Councillor Sandy Lay (Lib Dem, Otley) pitched the £70,000-a-year Business Improvement District (BID) at the meeting – which was devised by a combination of Otley’s town partnership and chamber of commerce.
Coun Lay said: “The scheme represents a fantastic opportunity for Otley. The town has the chance to be the first in Leeds to have a BID and the money that it will generate has very exciting possibilities.
“This includes the developing of existing and new festivals in the town, improved transport and communication links or even the negotiation of better deals for routine services so that businesses in the area save money.”
All businesses with an LS21 post code will be balloted in the autumn with the changes coming into effect if more than half of the total businesses in the area vote yes.
Tom Hatley,28, who is on the executive committee of the town’s chamber of trade, said: “We had the launch event on the April 29 and it went incredibly well.
“From the business community we had representatives such as Gary Reeves, who was in charge of the West End Bid in London, which is the biggest in the country, to educational bodies like Prince Henry’s School in Otley who see it as a good opportunity to engage with local businesses and set up apprenticeship schemes.
“We already have at least 100 businesses in Otley who have publicly expressed that they will vote yes. Otley is a vibrant exciting town with an extremely proactive chamber of trade which has 160 members. The BID is being driven by the people of Otley and not by the Council.”
Tim Wilkinson,48, owner of Dowgill House Bed and Breakfast , said : “The bid represents a unique opportunity to fulfil some of the towns’ aspirations”