Opinion: Shrewsbury BID is Shining Example
31 May 2023

As Shrewsbury BID faces a renewal ballot to continue its work to support the town for a further five years, My Shrewsbury editor Katy Rink praises the team for 10 years of great work to date. Pictured: The board of Shrewsbury BID, which is made up of BID levy payers (town centre businesses). 

Not a lot of folks understand what a BID is, but Business Improvement Districts can make a huge difference to the culture and life of a town and to the economic success of the businesses within it. 

We are very fortunate to have in Shrewsbury BID a passionate, sensible and experienced team who have certainly earned their stripes over the past 10 years. Its role is broadly defined under four headings: promoting and animating the town; supporting businesses and enhancing the town centre experience and acting as the coordinated voice for the business community on important issues.  

The Shrewsbury Ambassadors

In reality, it delivers or helps fund, a huge number of impactful projects, such as the Shrewsbury Ambassadors (pictured above) who welcome visitors to town in their eye-catching blue jackets, or the Shrewsbury Rangers who provide an additional layer of security in the town centre. 

It is the Shrewsbury BID that is behind the bunting and flags in the High Street in the summer, the Christmas trees on businesses in The Square - and the BID that spearheaded the eye-catching murals project to invite local artists to paint the BT Openreach boxes.

In addition, the Shrewsbury BID puts on or supports activities to encourage more people to come into town such as: open air screenings of Wimbledon and The Coronation at Shrewsbury Castle; working with The Shrewsbury Arts Trail to install Andrew Logan sculptures and seasonal activities and live music in the town square (remember the giant pumpkin, and 'Sofa Sundays'?).

Painted Life's Christmas Film in 2021 showing the drummer boy

Shrewsbury BID commissioned 'Find Magic in Shrewsbury this Christmas' by Painted Life Productions

You might also know it from its public-facing brand 'Original Shrewsbury' - with over 41,000 followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, reaching more than 6.5 million people in 2022. It is also behind seasonal promotional videos, such as the phenomenally successful 'Find Magic in Shrewsbury this Christmas' film by Painted Life Productions (pictured above).

There is so much more to say, as the BID's tendrils around town life are far-reaching and often subtly effective; in its representing role, it gives businesses a strong voice in discussions on hot topics around town and in future development in the town centre. It also measures footfall and spend data to keep an eye on the town's performance and strives to improves the experience for visitors to Shrewsbury, with projects such as the installation of over 20 new 'wayfinding' totems in the town centre and the new Heritage Trail. 

The Openreach boxes trail

The BT/Openreach 'Mini Murals' trail organised by Shrewsbury BID to brighten the town centre

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a private, not-for-profit business-led organisation; every five years, local businesses vote to invest as a group to improve their environment - and the work of BIDs is principally funded by a mandatory levy on all eligible businesses following a successful ballot. 

As our Shrewsbury BID launches its business plan for the next five-year term, with a plan to invest £3 million in the town over that period, it's a good time to look back and remember some of its achievements and also to remember what the town was like without it. 

Mike Matthews, Shrewsbury BID chairman, has urged us to remember that the marketing of our town was virtually on-existent prior to the BID. Now, Shrewsbury is competing with top tier destinations, featuring regularly in national travel features and influencer blogs. 

There are many elements that contribute to our town's success, but doubtless our Shrewsbury BID is a powerful and competent force, which has established an important network of relationships over 10 years, all in the name of supporting our business community. As Gill Gradwell of Cooking Kneads puts it - the BID has become a vital part of the fabric of Shrewsbury; I'd go as far as to say it is a shining example of its kind. 

It is the fate of all BIDs across the land to face a ballot every five years, however - to be held between June 8 and July 6 in Shrewsbury this year. Five hundred businesses within the town centre with a rateable value of over £12,000 will be asked to vote on the renewal of the BID term until March 2029. Whilst businesses that have a rateable value less than £12,000 are exempt from paying the mandatory levy, many choose to be part of Shrewsbury BID through voluntary membership. Businesses outside of the BID levy area, but within 15 minutes walk of The Square are also 'warmly invited' to join. 

It will be exciting to see what Shrewsbury BID can do, building on all that experience, with another five years. I have no doubt it will secure the backing it needs and that our business community in Shrewsbury will benefit from the result.