Businesses Should "Love Wimbledon"

Wimbledon can build on its offering

Wimbledon should build on its civic pride, retail strength and cultural offering, according to business leaders aiming to create a Business Improvement District for the town centre.

The first networking forum for local businesses to hear more about the initiative took place in the town on Wednesday (September 14).

A Business Improvement District (BID) would enable local firms, through an elected board, to prioritise spending to make the town centre more attractive and profitable.

In January, businesses in the town centre will be asked to vote on a BID proposal now being put together. A 'yes' vote would mean each business contributing 1% of its rateable value into the scheme, with the funds then available for spending in the BID area.

The team behind the scheme, including Merton Chamber of Commerce, Wimbledon Town Centre Management and the Wimbledon Going for Gold campaign, have set up Love Wimbledon to promote the initiative and are now seeking views of local firms.

Diana Sterck, Chief Executive of Merton Chamber of Commerce, told the forum: "Wimbledon is different and the strength is its differentiation. It is about civic pride and about having a great look and feel for the place."

She said local initiatives to improve the business environment included the annual Winter Wonderland event, the Piazza markets, the 'Wimbledon Way' planned for the Olympics and the information point in Centre Court.

"The BID aims to build on all the projects we have been working on, so that we are not starting from scratch," she said.

Andrew Wakefield, Chamber of Commerce Chairman, added: "We have an amazing cultural offering and a great retail offering. It is about growing and nurturing that".

The BID team will be visiting 350 businesses in the designated area, which covers The Broadway along to Wimbledon Hill Road as well as Worple and Hartfield Roads (see map right, with the BID area highlighted) over the next few months to explain more about the scheme.

They are also staging two more forums - at the Polka Theatre on The Broadway at 12.30pm on Tuesday October 11 and at the Princess of Wales in Hartfield Road at 5.30pm on Thursday October 20.

There are now more than 100 BIDs operating in the UK since the first was successfully established in Kingston. Most Wimbledon businesses will pay between £200-£1,000 per year, with exemption for businesses with a rateable value of less than £20,000.

September 14, 2011