In this comment article for News Shopper, Orpington MP Jo Johnson urges people to back the BID – the creation of a Business Improvement District for Orpington.

Many town centres in the UK have experienced tough trading times in recent years and Orpington is no exception. That’s why I support a new initiative – the creation of an Orpington Business Improvement District – that would give local businesses a greater say in how the town centre is managed.

The aim of the BID is to drive footfall and improve Orpington's individuality, safety and the appearance of the high street. It will help bring more businesses, jobs and vitality to the town.

Orpington has already tackled the recession with positive initiatives such as the formation of the Orpington Business Forum. The forum has promoted ideas to market the town and improve the environment. Amongst these was the refurbishment of the pavements, roads and street furniture with the support of Bromley Council and Transport for London.

These various initiatives have resulted in one of the lowest vacant unit rates in the UK. The forum now wants to form a BID to improve further on the town's offer to business and the community. A BID is formed through a ballot of local businesses, which now have just a few days left in which to vote. In order for the BID to come into existence, a simple majority of those voting must be in favour and their votes must also represent a majority of the aggregate rateable value of the properties that have voted.

BIDs are funded by a levy on all businesses within the BID boundaries based on the rateable value of their property. Once formed, the BID would exist for up to five years after which a further ballot is needed for it to continue.

Ballot papers are now available for the Orpington BID and Orpington 1st, as it will be called, is hoping to encourage all local businesses to take part.

All eligible businesses will receive their ballot papers by post and these must be completed and returned by February 21 to be counted.

Chaired by Gary Morris, Orpington 1st will be entirely owned, led and funded by the businesses in the town centre.

Orpington 1st's vision for Orpington is simple - a town centre that businesses and visitors enjoy spending time in and can feel proud of.

A BID would cement Orpington's reputation as a great place to start a business and capitalise on the recent £2.2m regeneration of Orpington High Street and plans already under way for a £14m revitalisation of the Walnuts shopping centre.

Do let the BID organisers know when you have cast your vote by emailing or by telephoning the team on 020 8313 4880. For further information, visit and

Do you share Mr Johnson's support for the Business Improvement District? What enhancements to Orpington town centre would you like to see to help it thrive? Add your comments below.