Aberdeen’s award-winning Business Improvement District, Aberdeen Inspired, is today (Tuesday May 11) launching a Back the BID campaign to ensure it can continue to provide much-needed support for the city centre and wider North-east.

In line with Scotland’s other BIDs, Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the businesses within the BID footprint every five years.

A successful ballot will futureproof the organisation and ensure it can continue working on behalf of local shops, bars, restaurants, property owners, landlords, shopping centres and all other city centre businesses until at least 2026.

Following approval of a short extension amid Covid-19 restrictions, which has seen many businesses forced to close, ballot papers are being distributed this week. The vote opens this Thursday (May 13) and eligible businesses have until 5pm on June 24 to have their say.

Aberdeen Inspired was established to attract, sustain and boost investment in Aberdeen’s city centre for the benefit of its levy payers and all those who live, work, shop and visit there.

It recently launched its business plan for 2021-26, which has a strong focus on city centre recovery, reinvention and resilience as the country emerges from lockdown.

Supporters of the BID have already given their voice to the Back the BID campaign, emphasising the message that in light of ongoing events, Aberdeen’s city centre has never needed backing more.

At just 1% of rateable value, the average levy equates to around £5 per week, less than a couple of cups of coffee. It is the lowest BID levy in the UK, and in recognition of the challenging times faced by businesses as a result of the pandemic, the levy in Aberdeen will be reduced by half in the first term (2021-22), dropping to just 0.5% of rateable value for the first year.

Allison Chaney, store manager at M&S St. Nicholas, said today: “Aberdeen Inspired has remained a vocal and united force in the city centre’s battle for survival since the first lockdown in March 2020. It plays a key role championing our city centre and its vital place at the heart of Aberdeen.

“Whether it’s creating initiatives like the Aberdeen Gift Card or providing advice and support to individual businesses, having a BID in place to drive our city centre forward is more important now than it ever has been. Without it, Aberdeen risks falling behind other towns and cities across the country.”

In addition to the levy payments, which go to support city centre improvements and initiatives, the BID brought in an additional £2m in other funding in 2020, almost double what is collected by levy. An achievement that would not have been possible without Aberdeen Inspired, it means that for every £1 of levy collected, at least £2 is invested in the city centre.

Among the initiatives delivered by Aberdeen Inspired is the internationally acclaimed street art festival, Nuart Aberdeen, which brings in £10m of marketing value to Aberdeen and attracts around 30,000 visitors. The festival is to return to the city next month.

Other cultural events and initiatives aimed at increasing footfall and dwell time include Aberdeen International Comedy Festival, the annual Christmas Village on Broad Street and the indoor Christmas Market in 2020, the Aberdeen Gift Card, Aberdeen Jazz Festival and the Inspired Nights street food market at The Green.

An Alive after Five initiative encouraged people to come into the city centre after 5pm, to visit restaurants, the theatre, cinema and shops.

Aberdeen Inspired leads the city’s annual Purple Flag accreditation, which was first achieved in 2014 with Aberdeen becoming the first city in Scotland to receive this prestigious award for safety and security. The standard was recently retained for a record eighth year.

The BID has also helped create a cleaner and more attractive city centre, with initiatives including the installation of ‘San Francisco’ style parklets on Huntly Street and Holburn Junction, improved signage, creative lighting and deep cleaning of Union Street.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said its voice would be needed more than ever in a post-coronavirus world.

“Every five years, Aberdeen Inspired, like every other BID up and down the country, goes to a ballot among levy-payers,” he said. “We find ourselves seeking a positive vote at a time when every business is operationally and financially challenged. However, a vote in the ballot this year is a vote, not just for the positive improvements we bring, but for the very survival of our city centre.

“Aberdeen and the wider North-east can only stand out as an attractive, worthwhile place to visit if it has a vibrant and appealing city centre that is rich in culture, retail and entertainment. Our programmes and activities, which have helped rejuvenate the city centre over the last five years, will be vital in restoring confidence.

“A positive vote will enable Aberdeen Inspired to act as the unified voice with local and national government, industry bodies and key opinion formers to ensure the regeneration and reinvention of our city centres is at the top of the agenda as we move into the post-covid recovery phase.

“Never before has there been a more critical time for our city centres to have leadership and partnership that is and committed to leading the charge for investment, repurposing and delivering for the city.”

He added: “We need to make sure that our city centre is fit for purpose and relevant for the future, embracing and delivering solutions that are fit for modern progressive urban centres, as well as protect the diversity, vibrancy and safety of the city centre for when businesses return to their offices, ensuring employees can enjoy and benefit from an appealing city centre which will help attract and retain staff and tenants. It will allow us to continue to improve the maintenance of buildings and derelict space and maintain a Granite City we can all be proud of.”

Ojay McDonald, chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), said Aberdeen Inspired was a “crucial” part of progressing development in the city centre.

“There is so much in flux at the moment that we can't afford to be without one of the biggest tools for recovery that Aberdeen has in its locker,” he said. “During the pandemic we've seen some astonishing results of BIDs which have gone through their renewal ballots successfully because businesses recognise the importance of having that private sector facilitator and co-ordinator - leadership that can help be the voice of businesses and help drive them forward through difficult times.”

The BID footprint covers Union Street and the surrounding streets, including Broad Street, Market Street, Bridge Street, Huntly Street and Holburn Junction.

For more information, visit www.aberdeeninspired.com