Editorial: Out of town store is part of the problem – not the solution

Sunday Supplement

Our detailed look back on the stories that we have been talking about in Moray…..

Tesco – will ensure Elgin BID continues

Moray’s councillors will discuss a paper being put to their policy and resources committee on Tuesday that speaks in glowing terms on the success of the Elgin Business Improvement District since it was formed five years ago.

Reading very much like a political party election address, completely with fancy ‘manifesto’ for the future, the documents tell of a major success story in Elgin.

It speaks in glowing terms of how Elgin BID has been “highly successful” in its marketing of events and boasts of the £600,000 costs of the scheme resulting in £5million invested in the City Centre.

What the report does not appear to detail in any way is how much new business this investment has attracted to Elgin City Centre. It fails to demonstrate or even mention any increase in footfall in Elgin as a result of BID’s efforts.

Nowhere does it speak of the businesses who have closed their doors never to return or the growing disquiet amongst some business owners over the whole concept.

Perhaps most worrying of all, it fails to mention the apparent constitutional gerrymandering that is being claimed over the manner in which the BID is voted into place.

Tesco joints the party

Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table – I can only speak on the grounds of information given to me by shopkeepers in Elgin who have approached insideMoray recently, seeking help in publicising a side to the Elgin BID story that they say is lacking in the media.

But in the middle of August I did note a report on Elgin BID’s own website, announcing proudly how the boundary of the ‘City Centre’ would be redrawn ahead of the ballot that would decide if they should continue for another five years.

The reason for the change of boundary is to allow Tesco to ‘join the party’. Tesco, it seems, have had a change of heart since BID was first formed, when they refused to take part.

As voting for the BID is not in terms of ‘one store, one vote’ but rather on the rateable value of each store, the City Centre was deemed not to include Tesco – and so the superstore did not vote against the formation of BID, as they surely would have done and so ended the initiative at birth.

However, with clear disquiet in the ranks that could conceivable lead to a ‘No’ vote, the superstore owners agreement to BID now becomes vital for exactly the opposite reason.

Many people view the problems of Elgin City Centre as being out of town stores and their large and very convenient free parking areas. Many people, in that respect, view Tesco as being part of the problem, not a solution to it.

After all, park your car at Tesco, get your shopping then leave your car to walk to the High Street and continue shopping? Not an option for the vast majority, and even the minority might find Tesco getting shirty over illegal parking!

To quote David Cairns, owner of Baggs and a leading voice in the campaign against the continuation of BID: “All we ask is that they give us our democratic right to a free and fair election.”

It does appear that will be denied.

It does appear that Moray Council will – and not for the first time – ignore the needs of the small businessman and woman in favour of the very out-of-town giants who are killing the High Street in the first place.

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