A GROUP set up to revitalise Queensferry has been attacked by some traders who say they have been “railroaded” into an un-necessary scheme.
Locals voted in favour of a Business Improvement District (BID) last June and steering group Queensferry Ambition was formed to carry out its aims. But in a letter to Queensferry Ambition, Audrey Birch who has a local piano tuning business, wrote on behalf of 30 others calling the BID project a “fix”.
Audrey said: “We feel this project has been thrust upon us without thorough discussion and advice. Queensferry Ambition debate with possible good intention on how everybody will benefit from BIDs, though when direct questions are asked, the answer is always unknown.”
She criticised plans including leafleting cruise liner passengers, adding: “The group obviously live in cloud cuckoo land - do they honestly believe that the shipping companies are going to forfeit approximately £25,800 per trip to remove clients from coach tours and direct them to the High Street?”
She also stated that town maintenance was already carried out by the council with no need for the BIDs project.
She added: “There are 300 businesses in South Queensferry, the majority working from domestic properties paying domestic rates yet BIDS do not approach those traders for any levy but prefers to pressure commercial establishments! There exists a general feeling of being railroaded.
‘‘Many assumed by not voting they would be considered a ‘no vote’, whilst others were on holiday when voting took place. Although some have paid the levy through fear, many of us refuse to pay.”
Last June, the Queensferry Gazette reported that businesses had voted to back the town’s BID, promising to source up to £500,000 over the next five years, with planned projects including a new website, mobile app, and more parking.
BIDS chairman Malcolm Brown hit back at the criticism saying that despite her profession, Audrey Birch was “out of tune” with Queensferry residents.
He said: “This was not thrust on people. There was a year-long consultation using social media, the website, brochures, press and we encouraged everyone to come to the consultation meetings.”
He added there was a six week period for people to vote to allow for holidays and a 28-day period after the result to appeal.
He stressed the BID launch and balloting local businesses was fair, transparent, and in no way a “fix”.
Malcolm said: “Businesses that pay commercial rates got a vote and this was fully explained. We had an unprecedented 63 per cent turn-out with 90 voting yes and 32 voting no - 73.7 per cent voting in favour. It was a democratic and legally binding process run by Elections Edinburgh and, at the end of the day they lost the vote.”
Malcolm rubbished the claim that by not voting, this was counted as a ‘no vote’, calling it, “astonishing naivety”.
“This is mischief making in the extreme. These people have spent more time campaigning against a democratic result rather than helping us improve South Queenferry.”
As part of the BIDs project, a levy is required by eligible businesses but the steering group added these were minimal and reinvested in town projects including working with cruise liner companies. Malcolm added the group was supported by local churches and schools, who paid the levy, and advising businesses not to pay, was “stupid advice and dangerous”. The BIDs levy is collected by City of Edinburgh Council.
Steve Cardownie, deputy council leader, said: “We fully support the BID and Queensferry Ambition to deliver over £500,000 of additional investment over the next five years in the area, spent on projects led and managed by the business community.”