The continuing development of the town is vital for its economic and social viability, and much of our Chief Executive’s time has been spent working with partners, in particular Watford Borough Council and intu to ensure Watford is a joined up town, which can be enjoyed and accessed by all.
In 2017, we commissioned a transport study. It was this piece of work that brought together Herts County Council, Watford Borough Council, intu and the developers to resolve how the High Street looked and worked around the new intu extension.
We pushed for all High Street works to be completed in tandem with intu works, so there was no further disruption to businesses.
We were instrumental in securing £4.8m of grant funding for improvements between Watford Junction and the town centre, The first phase included filling in an underpass. Improvements to the crossing were completed in 2019.
We entered into an agreement with Watford Borough Council, where they managed the footfall camera contract, via Springboard, and we managed footfall monitoring. In March 2020 the Council’s contract with Springboard ended and a new company is being sourced to take on the footfall count.
In early 2020 footfall was high, and the dramatic impact of the lockdown on the town was recorded:
Prior to COVID-19 the average dwell time was 89 minutes in 2019 up from 82 minutes on the previous year. This was higher than the national average, and higher than competitor towns.
In March 2018, we launched a small grant scheme aimed at helping levy payers develop their business and improve the quality of their customer experience. The maximum grant available was £2,000 or 50% of the total costs. In total, over £18,000 was awarded to businesses in the town. Grants ranged from £316 to £2,000, and covered improving equipment at a live music venue, to shop front and signage improvements, to businesses re-configuring their internal layout, and improving/or developing their online presence.
We supported an innovative pilot project with Hertfordshire police and intu, which has funded two police officers who have been working with vulnerable children across Watford, showing them the dangers of gang and knife crime.
In 2017, Watford Borough Council installed commemorative Graham Taylor boards to dress up a recently vacated building next to the church. The boards were given to the BID to auction off to fans, raising over £700 for the major refurbishment of the Church.
We recognise that for Watford town centre to be welcoming it is important that there is access for all, so have provided a £5k grant to Shopmobility every year for five years. Shopmobility is run by a team of volunteers from Church car park and its free mobility scooters are well used in Watford.
The intu extension works started in March 2016 and completed in September 2018. During this time, we tracked the developments with weekly photographs and updates – including the High Street improvements – and posted them on Facebook and Instagram under the hashtag #WatchWatfordGrow. This meant people could see how quickly progress was being made and also provided a fascinating insight into the transformation of the town.
In 2018, we achieved British BIDs national accreditation. Only a small number of BIDs across the country have received this award, which recognises best practice in communications with levy payers, governance and marketing. As part of the assessment process, our financial management was scrutinised.
We won the national British BIDs Place Management Award 2018 for our contribution to the High Street improvement works. The award acknowledges outstanding projects delivered by BIDs around the country.
Two of our members of staff studied for and passed the British BIDs Certificate in BID Management course with Jill gaining a distinction and coming top in the class.
We were asked to showcase the work we do in Watford to other BIDs around the country by hosting a British BIDs Professional Development Day. This took place in April 2019.
Our Chief Executive is the Chair of the Hertfordshire Vibrant Towns Group; is on the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) national Advisory Board, the British BIDs Board and Visit Herts Partnership Board, plus locally she represents the BID and its levy payers on local stakeholder groups: Big Business Connect, Cultural Leaders and One Watford. During the pandemic she was a member of the Watford Together group and the Watford Business Re-opening Strategy Wider Taskgroup. Over the past five years, we have supported and offered guidance to developing and new BIDs across the country.
“It is terrific news for Watford BID, gaining Accreditation, winning the National BID Award and having a key member of staff graduate with the certificate in BID Management. All three were celebrated at the British BIDs conference, and all three are a sign that the levy payers of Watford are receiving a truly excellent service. We congratulate Watford BID on these successes.”
Professor Chris Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs
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