HELENSBURGH'S entrepreneurs have been urged to back the establishment of a Business Improvement District – or BID – in the town.

A formal decision on whether to go ahead with the idea has yet to be made – but local entrepreneurs have agreed to find out more information from towns which already have BIDs before deciding whether to proceed.

Business Improvement Districts see every business in a town, or part of a town, pay extra on top of their rates for projects not covered by the local council.

A meeting of local entrepreneurs last week heard that there were already almost 40 BIDs in Scotland, including two in Argyll and Bute – in Oban and Dunoon.

Among the guest speakers at the event was Andrew Spence, manager of the BID4OBAN organisation, who said he didn't know of a business in the Argyll town that wasn't prospering since the establishment of the Oban BID.

Mr Spence said: “Our aim was to take back control of what was happening in our town amid loss of services, a lack of cohesion, and no clear picture of the identity of our customers.”

The Oban BID, like others across Scotland, only went ahead after a ballot of business owners in the proposed BID area returned a vote in favour of the idea.

In Oban, as elsewhere, all businesses in the BID zone pay a levy, depending on their rateable value – including national chains and charity shops.

Phil Prentice, chief executive of the Scotland's Town's Partnership and manager of Scotland's BID programme said: “Helensburgh is a beautiful town. The people who need to step up to lead Helensburgh in the future are you, the business owners. You need to get “You have to be brave, and you have to be visionary. You have a great town. It's just a wee bit passive at the moment.”

Scotland currently has 38 BIDs, and a further 22 are in development – not including Helensburgh.

Several business owners at the meeting asked how much a Helensburgh BID might raise in business levies – which are imposed on all businesses in the BID zone, regardless of whether they voted for the idea.

Mr Prentice suggested that considering the levy income first was “starting on the wrong page”, though others suggested that based on the Oban and Dunoon BIDs, a figure of around £100,000 per annum would be a fair estimate,

Although views on the merits of a BID in Helensburgh were somewhat mixed during the meeting, afterwards several business owners said they were behind the idea.

John Urquhart, from Balmillig B&B in Colquhoun Street, said: “It's a no brainer. Why? Because it will be good for business.

“We need to work together. Small businesses have very little power on their own but in combination you have influence on politicians, funders and other businesses.

“None of what we need to do is happening, because there's no mechanism to do it. It would be crazy not to try it.”

Gary Mulvaney, managing director of Helensburgh Toyota and a local Argyll and Bute councillor, added: “The people to lead this are those who have a business stake in the town. This is a business sector driven concept and that's the only way it will succeed.”

And Kathleen Owens from The Pet Shop in Sinclair Street, who is a member of the Helensburgh BID Group, said: “ Forty towns have a BID or are in the process of getting one. If all these other towns have one, there has to be a benefit in it.

“But it's up to the businesses, and if they don't support it, it won't happen.

“At our next meeting we'll invite business owners from areas who have an existing BID to give Helensburgh entrepreneurs answers to all the questions they may have.”

The next meeting to discuss the issue is expected to take place in the next three to four weeks, although no firm date or venue has yet been set.