IDEAS on how to improve the business prospects of Okehampton's town centre were the topic of discussion at the latest public meeting held by the Okehampton Business Improvement District Association.

More than 30 people turned out for the latest BID meeting at the White Hart Hotel last Tuesday. The event was pitched as an 'ideas night', offering people the chance to share their ideas on how a BID could improve business opportunities.

Kay Bickley, chair of the BID association, said: 'The whole point of this process is that it is one of collaboration, not of competition. Let's not lie, we are all here to improve our own businesses, but we are also here to improve the town too. We need to think strategically on how we can achieve both.'

Those in attendance then discussed parking and traffic, town events, coach visitors and marketing, and how each of these things could be improved or capitalised upon to increase business.

Ideas raised included the creation of monthly late-night shopping nights, free parking after 3pm on certain days, a drop-off point for tourist coaches with incentives for coach drivers, improved signage, marketing in regional publications, and the potential creation of a new community event in the spring.

The special guest speaker for the meeting was Nigel Eadie, the chairman of Tavistock Chamber of Trade, to discuss how the BID has benefitted Tavistock.

Much of his talk focused on how Tavistock's Dickensian Evening reaped the benefits of the BID, with a record turnout and profits for businesses, thanks to increased marketing put together by the Tavistock BID team.

Mr Eadie said: 'As a chamber of trade, we would get approached by many people with great ideas on how to improve our town, but we had no funds to carry out those ideas.

'The BID fitted the bill most succinctly for us, and it has provided cash to execute those great ideas and benefit Tavistock.

'If you are not going to have a BID in Okehampton, what else are you going to do? With a BID you have some control over your own destiny. You have a pot of money to orchestrate initiatives and do things to improve the town.'

A BID is a partnership between the business community and local authority, formed to develop and improve a defined business area through projects and services to benefit the trading environment and town as a whole.

It is funded by a levy within the BID boundary, but is dependent on support from at least 50% of those businesses. The Okehampton BID will focus on how to improve prospects for the town centre.

A BID can only be formed following a consultation period and a ballot in which businesses vote on a BID proposal or business plan for the area.

The vote is open to all businesses within the proposed BID area which are eligible to pay the levy. To ensure the interests of both large and small businesses are considered, the ballot must be won by claiming at least 50% of the vote and by the rateable value majority of those voting for the BID.

If the BID was successful, the levy money would be collected by the borough council and would be paid into a ring-fenced BID account.

For more information on the Okehampton BID, visit"> or call 01837 658643.