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Bid to boost Dingwall's business pulling power set for next step


By Scott Maclennan


Bill Anderson (from left) of Highflight Books, Debbie Downie of the Sports and Model Shop and Councillor Graham Mackenzie support plans for a business improvement district in Dingwall.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. 043618..
Bill Anderson (from left) of Highflight Books, Debbie Downie of the Sports and Model Shop and Councillor Graham Mackenzie support plans for a business improvement district in Dingwall.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. 043618..

BUSINESSES in Ross-shire's county town are to be asked to get behind an ambitious shared vision that backers believe could be a game changer for the community.

Detailed proposals for a Business Improvement District (BID) in Dingwall are contained in an impending Next Steps document that will give local traders an idea of what to expect and how they can benefit.

It aims to make more of its location on the North Coast 500 route and combat the commercial pull of Inverness and online shopping.

It's understood that two major national retailers – Tesco and Boots – are prepared to sign up to the scheme which sees businesses contributing to fund projects of benefit to all.

The Dingwall Means Business team behind BID believe the move will provide a massive boost to the commercial life for the market town.

Following months of work consulting local businesses, the finishing touches are still being put to the final proposal.

The team will also be staging a two-day drop-in session planned to be held in the town later this month to traders on BID.

The team, which includes a number of local businesses, insists the aim is to improve the prospects for all businesses in the town, not just the centre and High Street.

Key to the proposal is bringing businesses together to deliver an investment in what they think will boost their margins.

Key issues set to come under the spotlight include finding a resolution to the potential impact of Highland Council introducing parking charges and reducing the number of vacant shops.

The possibility of developing a new cinema complex has also been floated though is at an early stage.

BID treasurer Debbie Downie, who runs the Sports and Model shop, said establishing a business improvement district is “vital.”

She said: “Bringing more people into the town is hugely important but so is changing people’s idea of what Dingwall is.

"We are a really vibrant place, there are lots of really good businesses in the business park that people don’t know are there and people need somebody to shout about it – that is what BID would do.”

“We are really pleased that Tesco and other large organisations are all very positive towards BID."

Steering group member Bill Anderson, owner of High Flight Books, said: “It is about creating a destination and celebrating what is here because there is a whole lot industry and activity that is going on. The place is not ‘dead’ at all – it is quite a vibrant community."

The Highland Council’s representative on the steering group is Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Graham Mackenzie. He said: “I am convinced that this is one of the best ways to get investment into the town.

“Apart from everything else it could bring a sense of unity to Dingwall in that all the money is coming from Dingwall businesses to the BID fund and used for the benefit of Dingwall – I can’t see any downsides.”

Kate Forbes MSP sees it as a great opportunity for Dingwall.
Kate Forbes MSP sees it as a great opportunity for Dingwall.

Local MSP Kate Forbes, who has a constituency office on the High Street and is from Dingwall, said: “BID is a great opportunity for Dingwall to look at its priorities over the coming years and target investment particularly on the High Street where hard-working shopkeepers are doing their best to make Dingwall a dynamic town.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We’re aware of the proposals for a business improvement district in Dingwall and will be happy to comment on plans as they are brought forward."

Boots, which has a High Street presence, has a representative on the steering group.

A BID scheme has been up and running in Inverness for several years and has been credited with helping revitalise the city.

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