A NEW organisation formed to boost Otley's economy has got off to a busy start.

The town's Business Improvement District (BID), which will plough £370,000 into town centre improvements over the next five years, only officially began in April.

But the organisers, correctly anticipating a majority 'yes' vote from the traders who were asked to join it, did a lot of preparatory work to ensure the initiative would hit the ground running.

Since launch it has focused on taking action to support two cornerstones of its long-term business plan - dubbed Pride in Otley and Professional Otley.

The Pride in Otley work has included:

*Funding 15 lamppost floral baskets, fixings and a watering cart, which will be set up by Otley in Bloom this month

*Contributing towards the Tour de France floral yellow bikes scheme, also being co-ordinated by Otley in Bloom

*Acquiring 100 bunting packages for businesses to use to promote the Tour de


*Holding a meeting with Leeds City Council's Parks and Countryside department to forge closer links for future works.

As for the Professional Otley aspect, Otley BID is putting together a comprehensive business directory and updating its website with details of ongoing local work and achievements.

It has also held initial talks about a ‘fuel cards for employees’ scheme, with further plans to also look at discounted bus and rail passes.

Longer term goals being explored include setting up a bulk-buying arrangement for utilities, while a meeting is to take place with the city council about funding for superfast broadband.

The BID team are also talking to Leeds about renting some of the regularly empty stalls at Otley's weekly markets, with a view to offering them to small, emerging businesses.

Work to promote the town is also ongoing, and includes the upgrading of local car park signs and the creation - working with many of Otley's organisations - of a map of the town that highlights its shops, services and attractions.

Traders voted to create Otley BID Ltd in a postal ballot in February, with participating businesses committed to supporting its work by contributing one per cent of their rateable value annually through to 2019.