The Okehampton BID project may have reached a sticking point as the most recent proposal was put towards both Okehampton councils for approval this month, writes Amy Hetherington.

This week Okehampton Town Council reviewed West Devon Borough Council’s suggestions for a potential BID (business improvement district), but has faced difficulties as Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council has refused to pay the proposed amount.

Under one of the schemes proposed by West Devon Borough Council, which has agreed to contribute towards the costs of a BID, Okehampton Town Council, Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council and the borough council would pay a third of the cost each. But the Hamlets has argued that this is too much for it to pay.

Town councillor Julie Yelland said: “I am very disappointed that the Hamlets say they are happy to work with the town council but this is sadly another time this hasn’t happened and it’s further evidence we need this boundary review because it’s going to mean a small number of residents covering the costs of a much larger area.

“But I agree this BID does need to be progressed. It’s in the wider interest, it’s going to be good for the economy, it’s going to relieve pressure going forward from the expectation of the town council and volunteers will deliver on economic growth in the area.”

Town councillors are determined to see the BID established and have now deferred the decision to support the proposal until they have confirmed whether the Hamlets is willing to contribute a smaller sum or not.

The town council has also raised the suggestion that it would pay the Hamlets’ percentage if the parish council were unwilling to do so, but is currently querying whether it is allowed to do that given that some of the proposed BID area stretches over the Hamlets’ boundary.

However, Councillor Brian Wood, chair of Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council, told the Okehampton Times that the council is willing to “pay our fair share.”

He said: “We haven’t got the cash. West Devon need to do more but have been strapped by the Government.

“We will pay our fair share but [under the current proposal] we would pay 20 per cent of our precept [on funding the BID] so we would have to raise our precept by 30 per cent or more in a time of austerity.”

Town councillors have been debating the establishment of a BID since October last year after a report suggested that larger businesses in the town supported the idea.

Smaller businesses have been less supportive as a BID would require ratepayers to pay a levy somewhere between 1.25 per cent and two per cent of their rateable value (the value of a property).

Okehampton previously attempted to set up a BID in 2013 but the proposal failed due to opposition from smaller businesses. The town used to have a Chamber of Trade which has now disbanded, and has been cited by some councillors as one of the main reasons why the previous attempt failed.