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BID heralds new era for Yarmouth tourism

PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 August 2014

Great Yarmouth seafront on Sunday afternoon in late June.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seafront on Sunday afternoon in late June. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Great Yarmouth’s tourism sector is entering the brave new world of the BID (business improvement district) following a landmark vote by businesses.

It means businesses with any tourism interest - and that includes a wide range of concerns from shops and accountants to the more obvious pubs, cafes, restaurants, holiday parks and attractions - will be obliged to pay an additional levy on their business rates to create a much bigger pot of money for promoting and enhancing the resort.

A key aim will be to improve the resort’s events programme - from enhancing existing once such as Christmas lights switch-ons and firework displays to creating new ones, including the possibility of a major new festival.

Money is also likely to be allocated to the preparation of a seafront plan which could be used as a tool for levering grant funding for further regeneration in the wake of the £16m InteGreat project a decade ago.

About 1,200 businesses stretching from Winterton to Hopton (but excluding the town centre already covered by a separate BID) were invited to take part in the historic vote, the result of which was announced on June 1.

The good news for BID task group chairman David Marsh was that 85pc of votes were in favour of creating England’s third tourism BID, following the path of Southport and Bournemouth - easily surpassing the simple majority required.

But the bad news, although not unexpected considering the pattern of BIDs countrywide, was that fewer than 50pc of eligible businesses voted.

Mr Marsh, a director of Greater Yarmouth Tourist Authority, the board of which will now be dissolved and replaced by a 20-strong BID board voted in by businesses, said: “Discussions concerning the creation of a BID stemmed from the fact that during the 20 years of the GYTA, 20pc of businesses supported it with voluntary subs to fund such things as the seafront fireworks; these benefited everyone but they were not paid for by everyone.”

Making payments compulsory through the BID will swell the coffers from £125,000 in the GYTA era to an annual sum of £470,000.

Businesses will receive their first yearly bill in September, ranging from £150 up to £9,000 for large holiday parks; firms liable will even include the major retail names operating outside the town centre such as Tesco and Asda and shops on the Gapton Hall retail park.

Mr Marsh said their aim during the coming weeks would be to “bring people up to speed who did not vote”.

The name of the BID would also be chosen and he hinted that the 20 years of history of the GYTA would be reflected in it.

He said: “A new board and new constitution will be in place in September and we will then be inviting levy payers to put in bids for funding.”

It had already been determined before the vote that 60pc of funding would go on extra marketing, promotion and events while 40pc would be spent on business support and resort facilities and maintenance.

Mr Marsh said: “The BID can’t solve everyone’s problems but we are confident we can deliver hope and aspirations in the private sector.”

It was evident that “more quality events” were needed throughout the year, but it would be up to BID contributors to decide which ones - “whether it is beer, food or kite-flying festivals or extended fireworks”.

Scotching the fears of some tourism operators, Mr Marsh said the BID - which would initially run for five years - was not legally allowed to fund activities that were the responsibility of the local authority.

However, he stressed it would be possible to bid to run services, for example the seafront toilets, if the council put the contract out to tender.

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