THE return of our high streets shops and businesses is welcome news for our communities - as our local businesses are anything but ‘non-essential’.

From butchers, to bakers, and all the other businesses in our communities, they are the backbone of our local economy.

The return of our high street businesses will bring some semblance of normality to communities that have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, but the sight of local businesses throwing open their doors is the light at the end of the tunnel so many of us have longing for.

The re-opening of high streets shops will provide an obvious commercial boost too, as the Government looks to get commerce working again, to combat the dire economic consequences of the pandemic.

And it's vital that the public play their part in supporting them - safely and responsibly.

After all, the people running the businesses and working in them are our friends, family and neighbours. And they need the economic support that customers provide as we move forward.

Ilkley BID is playing a huge part in helping our businesses to re-open and prepare to re-open.

Here, Ilkley BID manager Helen Rhodes outlines what the BID has been doing and what its next priorities are.

ILKLEY BID has now completed the first year of its five-year term and is now planning the activities for the first part of year 2.

In addition to the significant amount of work involved in setting up this new business, the BID has delivered many projects for the benefit of Ilkley businesses. The latest of these is in direct response to the effects on businesses of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The consumer-facing activity has been delivered through a brand new website and social media feeds Ilkley To You with the message ‘if you can’t come to Ilkley, let Ilkley come to you!’.

This campaign included radio advertising on Stray FM and a billboard advert on the A65. We have had feedback confirming we have driven traffic to members' businesses as evidenced by source tracking. Whilst many other areas replicated this response in some format, our team had this up and running within seven days and we have promoted more than 100 businesses on the platforms.

Looking at the business-facing activity, I have helped dozens of businesses access the government grant funding and have been dealing with an average of 80 emails and 10-plus calls a day. Many of the businesses have been very appreciative that I was able to act on their behalf and help some of those who were facing the most severe financial implications, by assisting in getting their grant to them quickly.

They like the fact there is someone locally that they can turn to with these queries. We have shared the information from the Cabinet Office on our website and social media and during the last three months, our social media engagement has gone up 500% which demonstrates that people have found the info useful.

I have attended a weekly meeting with the council to ensure that we have been aware of all developments and the council's response to business issues and have been involved in a wide range of other activities all aimed at keeping our businesses informed and promoting them wherever possible. There is lots of information and guidance on our website -

For the shops that have reopened we have provided vinyl floor stickers, posters for shops to display their maximum capacity and hazard tape to assist with marking queue lines where relevant. We held a Zoom meeting with the town centre retailers and have now set up a closed Facebook group which we hope will facilitate communications between them going forward.

I have a similar Zoom meeting with our hospitality businesses on Friday morning, anyone who would like to attend should get in touch via

I have recently been attending the Ilkley Coronavirus Response Group meetings, providing the other town centre stakeholders with updates about the BID's activity in helping the businesses.

The other things we have done in year one are:

* Extensive work responding to business queries, gathering data and being heavily involved lobbying for changes to the parking scheme which was introduced in July 19

* Headline sponsor of the Ilkley’s Got Heart campaign run by the Ilkley Community Network

* We cleaned the pavements in October 19

* We ran a Christmas campaign ‘It’s An Ilkley Christmas’ with extensive social media activity and a printed 12-page booklet distributed through the Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer

* Headline sponsor of the Ilkley Business Awards

* Professional photography project for member businesses

* Cost cutting services which have so far identified more than £22k in savings for BID businesses

* Free meeting room hire.

So far, our year 2 projects include

* Ilkley Watch – a radio scheme to connect our larger town centre retailers to facilitate working together and aid crime reduction

* Developing a brand for Ilkley to showcase the town and attract visitors

* Introduction of LoyalFree, an app based marketing tool which will feature interactive trails, online competitions as well as enabling members to offer app based loyalty or discount schemes

* PlaceDashboard, a software solution which will allow us to understand the amount of people visiting the town, their dwell time and movement between areas. This information will be used to do targeting marketing activity

* We have a focus this year on digital upskilling and have recently launched a pilot project in conjunction with Bradford BID, Keighley BID and Virtual College which is giving our businesses free and subsidised courses, that wouldn’t be available to them normally, to help them and their staff gain skills and so increase their competitive advantage.

Where possible and practical, we always try to shop local with our own purchases and the large majority of our year 1 spending has been with Ilkley businesses and those from the surrounding areas with only specialist national services used where the impact on the outcome determines this is the best course of action for our members.

Our AGM is on 1st July at The Clarke Foley Centre and all members can register to attend. Eventbrite link -