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Confusion over Pontypridd’s Business Improvement status

In November 2013 RCT Council decided to put in an application to Welsh Government for funding to explore the setting up of a Business Improvement District (BID). They chose Pontypridd as the preferred area for this because, as the Cabinet report stated, "the Rateable Value of businesses in Pontypridd is far greater than at Aberdare resulting in a significantly higher levy."

The scheme requires businesses in the identified area to vote on whether or not to become part of the scheme. If more than 50% say yes then all businesses in the section of the town covered by the BID would find themselves having to pay an additional levy of between 1 and 2 per cent on top of their existing business rates. The idea is that the money raised would go towards improvements in the town with a committee led by business people deciding on the priorities.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Powell says he is all for anything that helps bring new business into the town but says several traders have expressed serious concerns over the proposals.

"The business rates in Pontypridd are already, in the opinion of many, too high especially given the high number of empty properties and the considerable number of charity shops who get rate relief. An extra 1 or 2 percent on top may force some businesses to close.

"The rules covering the scheme only require 50% of those in the designated area to say yes to the scheme and there is no opt out for the rest, they have to pay up."

Questions have been asked over the decision on which areas to include in the BID scheme, with Bridge Street being excluded and maybe more controversially Sainsbury's and the stores located on the retail park.

The Director of Regeneration and Planning told Cllr Powell that businesses in Bridge Street were left out because they declined to give any view to the initial letters sent out. Thought had been given to including Sainsbury's and the retail park stores but it had been made clear by Sainsbury's that if they were included then they would vote against going ahead with the scheme.

Councillor Powell added

"This smacks of a little gerrymandering on behalf of those involved in trying to get this project up and running. When planning permission was granted for Sainsbury's it was on the basis that it was part of the town and so would not constitute significant out of town development. If it is part of the town then it should be included in the BID and allowed a vote on whether or not the scheme should go ahead just like any other business.

"This scheme does not cover only retail outlets but any business with a rateable value of over £5000. The Welsh Government introduced the scheme in 2006 but until 2013 only two places had taken it up, Swansea and more recently Merthyr.

"It seems very unfair to impose a scheme on everyone because half of the people who respond to a ballot say they want it.

"RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats will be carrying out our own survey of businesses in Pontypridd to see what the general opinion is."

ENDS

From: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Sent: 28 May 2015 06:28

To: Cook, Jane

Subject: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Dear Ms. Cook

As a Cllr whose ward partially falls within the Pontypridd Town centre could you kindly tell me why I have been omitted from all of the councils processes and deliberations of it please?

Cllr Mike Powell

From: Cook, Jane

Sent: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 04:46 PM GMT Standard Time

To: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Subject: RE: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Cllr Powell,

As you will be aware, in November 2013 Cabinet agreed for the Council to submit an application to Welsh Government for Business Improvement District development funding for Pontypridd.

As that report outlines, Business Improvement Districts are fundamentally driven by the private sector. They produce a business plan and are responsible for its delivery following a successful ballot. The BID Group which has been established, is entirely business led and is chaired by a local businessman.

Given that this is so strongly business led, Council officers have been in a secondary/advisory role, rather than leading on the basis of the Council's own processes and deliberations.

Thanks

Jane Cook

Director of Regeneration and Planning

From: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Sent: 25 June 2015 03:18

To: Cook, Jane

Subject: RE: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Ms. Cook

Indeed. Can I therefore take it that the business leaders decided that the part of the town centre that falls within my ward have all opted out of the BID process?

Cllr. Powell

From: Cook, Jane

Sent: Friday, July 03, 2015 09:48 AM GMT Standard Time

To: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Subject: FW: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Cllr Powell

Businesses on Bridge Street have been contacted during the BID feasibility study, for the Visioning Event and recently when BID information leaflets were distributed to the businesses. As little engagement was shown by Bridge Street businesses during the initial stages, a letter was distributed seeking their thoughts on whether the area should be included or excluded, and asking them to make contact with their views. There have been no responses from this.

Thanks

Jane

From: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Sent: Friday, July 03, 2015 11:07 AM GMT Standard Time

To: cookhj

Subject: RE: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Dear Ms. Cook,

Were Sainsburys and the businesses in the retail park also contacted regarding inclusion in the BID scheme? Also if a business does not wish to be included in the scheme are they removed from the process and subsequent charges for implementing of the scheme etc by merely not engaging with the initial contact?

Cllr. Powell

From: Cook, Jane

Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2015 04:57 PM GMT Standard Time

To: Powell, Michael (Councillor)

Subject: RE: Pontypridd Town Centre BID

Cllr Powell

I can confirm that Sainsbury's and the businesses on the retail park were considered as part of the feasibility study and discussions took place about including Brown Lennox Retail Park at the BID steering group meetings. Discussions were also had with Sainsbury's BID consultant, who advised they were unlikely to support the BID if they were included in the boundary due to them being located on the edge of central town centre area.

Where the BID boundary is agreed by the BID steering group, the businesses in this boundary will have the opportunity to vote in the ballot for the BID. If the ballot is successful the BID levy is mandatory and legally enforceable for all businesses in this boundary. The levy is paid by the business ratepayer, that is the occupier of the property and not the property owner. The BID charge will only be levied on businesses over an agreed rateable value and certain categories of hereditament (e.g. churches and schools) will be exempt - the levy is still to be determined.

Thanks

Jane Cook

Director of Regeneration and Planning