‘I’m glad it’s finished’: Bedminster traders on why they voted to end the business improvement district

Businesses in Bedminster tell us why they voted to scrap the BID after ten years
East Street butcher Kelvin Temblett has worked in Bedminster most of his 50-year careerEast Street butcher Kelvin Temblett has worked in Bedminster most of his 50-year career
East Street butcher Kelvin Temblett has worked in Bedminster most of his 50-year career

The many cranes above Bedminster signal that change is coming to this area of south Bristol, with more than 7,300 new homes being built in the BS3 postcode alone.

On the ground, change is also afoot. The popular Wilko store on East Street closed for good last week after the high street retailer fell into administration.

And earlier in September, the trading community on North Street, West Street and East Street voted to discontinue the Bedminster Business Improvement District (BID).

Set up in 2013, the Bedminster BID operates on behalf of 350 local businesses and is funded via a small levy on all eligible businesses in the area.

Over time, the funds have been used to support the Bedminster Winter Lantern Parade, Upfest and other events, while improving the local street scene with murals, pocket parks and Christmas decorations.

But local traders have voted to not renew the BID for another five years by a margin of six per cent, meaning it will now be discontinued from November 1.

Bristol World spoke to some of the businesses in Bedminster, to find out why they voted to scrap the BID after ten years.

Dave Bjelica, who runs Eddy’s Domestic Appliances opposite the Tobacco Factory on North Street, said the benefits of the BID did not stretch to his part of the street.

“There would be Christmas trees for all the shops with lights and stuff, and we wouldn’t get one. And then they put a Christmas tree up and it fell down the next day,” he said.

Bjelica, who has run his business for 33 years added: “I’m glad it’s ended. I’ve been taxed to high heaven for no reason, I didn’t benefit and it’s a clique of people who had the say so who didn’t even contribute towards it.

“There’s a lot on this high street who have a lot of smaller shops, never paid a penny into it but had all the say so. How does that make a democracy of it? It’s a mockery, so I’m glad it’s finished.

“Why’s it not funded by the government? Why’s it not funded by the local council? I don’t understand why.”

Only businesses above a certain size and rateable value are required to pay the BID levy. The BID is run by a voluntary board, who meet bi-monthly to discuss new projects and initiatives.

Robert Wooldridge of Zero Green in North Street thinks the BID did some good for the areaRobert Wooldridge of Zero Green in North Street thinks the BID did some good for the area
Robert Wooldridge of Zero Green in North Street thinks the BID did some good for the area

Further down North Street, Robert Wooldridge, the owner of zero-waste shop Zero Green since July 2022, said he thought the BID “were trying to do some very useful things”.

On paying the levy, he said: “I think it probably was worth it, I think they were involved in things like the Christmas lights so from that point of view that was great.”

Wooldridge was also asked if he thinks the area will be better or worse off without the BID.

He said: “It depends if there’s something else to replace it. If the council fills in the gap I suppose then we could be just as well but I can definitely see a benefit in an organisation focusing on this area.”

Chitra Tarling has run the gift shop Independent Design Collective on North Street for six years. She wasn’t eligible to vote, but said she would have voted to keep the BID running.

“I think all the street improvements that they’ve been doing for the local area - the street cleaning, events that go on - highlights that we’re mainly independent around North Street, East Street and West Street,” she said.

“We’re really working hard to bring people to this area and make it better and better each year.”

There is speculation among some traders that there could be a revote on the decision to discontinue the BID, but Bristol World understands this is not an option being explored.

The BID was last renewed for another five-year term in 2018, but Asda Bedminster withdrew its support for the scheme in that year.

Over on East Street, the St Catherine’s Place shopping centre has no shops left, while temporary roadworks are taking place around the area.

Jantzen Smith is one of the traders happy to see the end of the BIDJantzen Smith is one of the traders happy to see the end of the BID
Jantzen Smith is one of the traders happy to see the end of the BID

Jantzen Smith, who runs Shoe Tappers on East Street, a shoe repair shop and key-cutting service, says he is £360 a year better off without the BID.

He said: “It’s a tough one, we’ve been through the Covid pandemic and had massive road closures the last couple of years which has impacted hugely on trade and footfall.

“With the BID, a lot of it tends to go up to the more affluent, attractive area of North Street and down towards Southville.

“We kind of feel like we’ve been let down in a lot of ways, that’s not to say they haven’t done some good things.

“I think they provided a few things, they tarted the place up with planters, but for me the main issue has been anti-social behaviour and it’s not been dealt with.

“On a daily basis you’ll get people out here drinking and there’s not a day you can’t walk down East Street without smelling Marijuana being smoked.”

Smith, who has run the business for 10 years, says he is now looking at leaving because he has “had enough of trying and fight and battle just to survive”.

“The BID did some good things but for me, this is financially a lot better. It’s typical just as I’m about to leave my business so I’m not really going to benefit from it.”

In contrast to Smith, Bethany Morton, who opened the jewellery-making studio Silver & Steel on East Street in April 2023, said she would “love for the BID to be reinstated.”

“It was a good idea, really valuable for the local area,” she said. “I felt much safer having a point of contact with the level of crime that goes on in the area and having that contact and community with the other traders. It was a useful resource and very reassuring as a new business.”

While in Kelvin’s Butchers across the road, Kelvin Temblett, who has worked in Bedminster much of his life, said he “didn’t see a lot of benefit” from the BID.

He said: “It was supposed to help all the small traders in East Street. The Christmas lights were never down this end, they were always up the top or down the bottom.

“They used to paint the bollards outside and plant a few plants. It’s a shame that we’re going to be a little bit forgotten now.

“Did we benefit when we paid the payment? I don’t know whether we did or not. I always paid it every year because we had to.

“We certainly aren’t getting much help from the council with the parking. It’s terrible, customers have got a job to park anywhere and all the shop traders have a job to park anywhere.”

The Bedminster BID will be discontinued on October 31, when its current five-year term comes to an end.

It has, however, ring-fenced funds for street cleaning and Christmas lights throughout the area for this year.

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