Cargo bikes, local discount schemes, a business continuity fund - these are among the ideas most supported by businesses who would be most affected should the Council vote to take trams to Newhaven.
A targeted survey was carried out with Leith businesses during the autumn as part of work to prepare the Final Business Case (FBC) ahead of a final decision in March 2019.
Traders had their say on a £2.4m package of proposed support for business measures, feeding back on what types of support and assistance they think would most benefit them during the Trams to Newhaven construction phase.
The measures which respondents felt would be most beneficial to them during tramworks were: a business continuity fund, a business development champion for the area, added investment in keeping the area tidy and attractive, on-street guides, an open for business campaign, a subsidised local discount scheme, logistics hubs and a scheme to facilitate local deliveries from local businesses (eg by cargo bikes).
Markets and events, business skills development support and support for local arts groups were considered less of a priority by those who responded, however they did say that all of these measures would be of benefit to the wider business community in the area.
Businesses were also asked about how helpful a rates reduction would be for them. Given that the majority of businesses already benefit from the Scottish Government’s Small Business Scheme, which was not in place during the previous tram works, most respondents told us that it wouldn’t benefit them directly. They did say, however, that they agreed it would have a positive impact on those business in the local are who are currently subject to rates.
Survey feedback is now being analysed in detail by the Trams to Newhaven project team, who will develop an implementation plan as part of the FBC.
The FBC will also set out the finalised designs and traffic management arrangements, which were updated and refined following extensive public consultation and engagement carried out over several months this year.
Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said:
We're entering the New Year after a tremendously productive period of intense public consultation and engagement to make sure the plans for Trams to Newhaven truly reflect the needs and aspirations of the local community. From businesses and residents to interest groups, organisations and local councillors - everyone has dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy to helping us hone and refine the designs and plans and we're sincerely grateful for all their contributions.
Businesses have provided valuable insight into how best we can support them and the whole area if and when construction gets under way. We'll use the coming weeks to develop a workable implementation plan as part of the FBC and will keep traders up to date on progress ahead of the March decision. And if any businesses haven’t already signed up to our mailing list for timely updates, I’d urge them to do so.
Transport Vice Convener Councillor Karen Doran said:
So that we can develop and implement the most appropriate support plans for businesses, it was vital to hear directly from them through this survey on what their needs and expectations are. If Council decides to give the project the green light come March, we'll now be well positioned to get support for business measures in place in plenty of time before any construction work begins.
Garry Clark, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:
The Federation of Small Businesses welcomes the proactive steps that the Council is taking to engage with local businesses in and around Leith Walk in advance of a decision on taking trams to Newhaven. Any works of this nature will cause disruption to business and it is imperative that the right support is in place to mitigate the impact, particularly on smaller businesses.