Bradford BID has positioned itself front and centre in the city’s economic struggle with the coronavirus crisis, fighting to do all it can to help businesses throughout the pandemic, and it is set to play a central role in the continued recovery.

The Business Improvement District has provided constant support and advice during the lockdown period, keeping local firms abreast of the latest guidelines, as well as continuing its work to keep the city centre clean and fit for purpose.

And now it has created a new role which will provide face-to-face support for levy payers as they battle to recover from Covid-19.

Nikki Chadburn has been appointed to the ground-breaking post of Business Engagement Officer, with a remit is to ensure all 630 firms and organisations that are part of the BID know what help is available to them, and to ensure they can access it.

The post has been partially-funded through Government cash released to BIDs across the country to help them carry on their work in pioneering local recovery.

Announcing the £6.1m support package, high streets minister Simon Clarke said the work of BIDs was vital “in supporting local businesses, empowering communities, championing our town centres and driving forward the renewal of our high streets”.

The chairman of Bradford BID Ian Ward said the work being done by BIDs would be vital in the continuing economic recovery of town and city centres.

“It’s now widely recognised that BIDs are playing a crucial role in helping businesses to get back on their feet following the lockdown,” he said.

“The advice and support we’ve been able to supply to local businesses during the lockdown and in the pre-recovery period has been vital and well-received.

“Levy-payers rely on us to help keep them up-to-date with the latest developments, government policies and new guidelines, and this new role will enable us to do an even better job of providing that support in a more direct and focused manner.

“We think it’s an innovative way to tackle the needs of city centre retailers, hospitality and service providers and others at this time and it will provide long-term benefits and ongoing support into the future well after the pandemic has eased.”

As well as providing help and advice, the BID team has been working hard on ensuring shopping, visiting, and working in the city is the best possible experience for everybody.

It continued to deep clean key footfall areas during lockdown, repainted and repaired street furniture, put up more than 150 hanging baskets, and provided businesses with special ‘queue bubble’ floor markers to help with social distancing.

And it has also funded speciallycreated artwork, which was put up just before the lockdown began in March.

The appointment of Nikki will strengthen the existing relationships between the BID and its levy payers, and she will be a champion for businesses as the slow recovery from lockdown begins, say the BID.

Nikki has been working with the BID on a temporary basis since January this year, and says she is now itching to get stuck into her new permanent post, which she believes will be a key one for the recovery of the city centre.

She said: “I’ve really enjoyed working for the BID in my acting capacity and I’m thrilled to be taking on this new role which is going to be hugely important as we move forward.

“I can’t wait to get out and about and start passing on information, advice and guidance to those who need it as well as listening to levypayers and finding out how they’re working their way back after the traumas of lockdown.”

Nikki, who is originally from Guiseley, has a degree in childhood and youth studies. She started her career in childcare and launched a new nursery before moving into managerial roles. Before joining the BID, she was a project manager at a tile company, running 100 projects at any one time.

“My new position is going to be fundamental for the recovery of the city centre following the Covid-19 restrictions,” she said.

“Communication has been challenging during this period and having the resource to go out and see people face-to-face is going to make a huge difference to levy-payers’ understanding of exactly what the BID can do for them and the help they can get.

“My first mission is to make sure all the businesses know who we are and what we have been doing to support them so far and how crucial the BID is at a time like this.

“We are the voice of recovery for them but there are still people who don’t really know about the BID or understand what we do, how we can represent their interests and how we can help.

“But it’s not just about the recovery.

Even when we’re through that period we need to ensure we understand exactly what the levy-payers want us to provide and what they expect from us in terms of our efforts to increase and improve footfall and how we go about it.”

One of Nikki’s key tasks in preparation for her new role has been to update the BID’s website, which now has an in-depth section which details all the latest advice and developments on government guidelines and where support is available.

BID manager Jonny Noble said: “As Business Engagement Officer, Nikki will be in the frontline, building relationships with levy-payers and helping to ensure we are meeting their needs and enabling them to respond to the challenges that this pandemic will continue to throw up in the weeks and months ahead.

“She will be a first point of contact for business enquiries and she will champion business concerns and aspirations and ensure businesses are involved in the development of policies and strategies that shape the city centre and Bradford BID.

“I think this is a huge step forward for the BID and I’m really looking forward to working with Nikki on taking the impact of the BID to the next level.”

Jonny said that during lockdown, the BID had been working hard to ensure the city centre is ready for recovery.

“Bradford’s 630 businesses – through the BID – have continued to invest in the deep cleaning of key footfall areas, removing chewinggum, graffiti and years of grime, as well as cleaning, repainting and restoring street furniture, benches and the like,” he said.

“We have also installed 158 beautiful hanging baskets to bring lots of colour to the streets and this year – the BID’s second.

“We have been able to source them from a Bradford company, ACW Garden Centres, whereas in 2019 we were forced to go outside of the district because we started late in the season.

“And on top of all the advice and guidance on keeping staff and shoppers safe, we’ve been collating and providing for local firms. We’ve invested in hundreds of ‘queue bubbles’ to help them maintain social distancing.

“We’re also launching a new loyalty scheme app promoting retail, hospitality and leisure discounts and offers as well as shopping and visitor trails to encourage people to support Bradford’s city centre economy.”

The programme of hot-washing and chewing gum removal launched by the Bradford Business Improvement District last year had to be delayed in March this year because of the coronavirus restrictions.

But once the Government began reducing the lockdown restrictions, urging those who couldn’t work from home to return, the big clean-up was able to resume in earnest.

Jonny said sub-contractors were fully risk-assessed, the teams wore Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), adhering to all the guidance on social distancing.

The quieter streets also proved to be an advantage with the team able to press on with minimal disruption.

The hot-washing and chewing gum removal in key footfall areas took place in tandem with deep-cleaning and graffiti removal in some of the city centre’s “problem” areas.

One of the first areas was Market Street, which was normally crowded with buses and bus passengers waiting at the shelters, which would have made cleaning during daytime extremely difficult.

The BID also funded and commissioned Bradford In-Spires, a mural by local artist Sven Shaw featuring some of the city’s landmark buildings, which now provides a more uplifting vista for visitors using the walkway which runs alongside the Interchange in Bridge Street.

Ian Ward said that thanks to the support of levy-payers, Bradford BID was in a strong position to ensure the city centre “comes back fighting” as lockdown measures continue to be lifted and the city centre re-opens fully.

“The lockdown has had a huge impact on city centre businesses across all sectors and it is still an especially worrying time for many retail and hospitality businesses,” he said.

“The BID, along with many others, has been working hard on planning for the recovery and we are certain the resources we have available will be invaluable in driving people back into the city centre and bringing back customers old and new to all our shops and stores.”