Merton businesses vote for first Business Improvement District

Mitcham’s Willow Lane Industrial Area is to become Merton’s first Business Improvement District (BID) from the 1 July 2009 after businesses on the estate voted in favour of the move.

The 200 businesses in the area will pay an annual levy that will raise a total of £265,000 over the next five years. Funds raised will help the businesses to build on their previous achievements of improving their working environment and making it safer for employees. Priorities include reopening Willow Lane Bridge, increasing the number of CCTV cameras and improving signage on the estate. The cash will be paid to the Willow Action Group (WAG) which represents the interests of businesses in the Willow Lane Industrial Area. As administrator, Merton Council will be responsible for collecting the levy and depositing it in the WAG bank account.

Backing the initiative, the council conducted a ballot last month on behalf of WAG, distributing ballot papers to the businesses. Of the 107 papers returned 100 were in favour of becoming a Business Improvement District.

With funding from the London Development Agency, the Society of London Manufacturers (SOLOMAN) supported the Willow Action Group and guided them through the legal process.
WAG has a record of successfully securing improvements to the industrial estate through voluntary contributions from businesses. Since 2003 they have funded 10 CCTV cameras. The group has also worked with Merton Council to resurface Wates Way, install a post box on-site and arrange for waste bins to be provided. The group’s relationship with the police has helped cut vandalism, fly tipping and crime in the area.

Merton Council cabinet member for finance and regeneration Councillor Diane Neil Mills said: ‘This is a real success story for Merton and particularly Mitcham. This industrial area makes an important contribution to Merton’s business base and the investment that will be provided through the BID programme will make an important contribution towards improving the industrial estate. The willingness of local businesses to invest in the area, even during extremely difficult economic conditions, is a clear indication of the absolute commitment of local businesses to Mitcham, which we recognise and welcome.
‘I am delighted the majority of businesses that voted have supported this initiative and are prepared to make a real difference to the quality of their operating environment. I congratulate the Willow Action Group and the businesses in the Willow Lane Industrial Area for this great result.

‘Although this is Merton’s first BID programme, Merton Council is very supportive in principle of the BID programme and would like to expand BIDs, both to other industrial estates and town centres in Merton.’

SOLOMAN Director Ian Andrews said: ‘This has been a really successful project. At 93.5%, this was the highest ‘yes’ vote that we’ve seen – great news for the estate. ‘

WAG Chairman Dave Dadds said: ‘We are thrilled to have successfully become a Business Improvement District as it will formalise how we manage and fund the improvements we want to make.’