THE new manager of Skipton Business Improvement District (BID) says businesses and residents need to be reminded of the town's quality shops and restaurants so they can be proud of where they live.

Sarah Howsen, who has just taken on the role after it was vacant for about eight months, told a meeting of the town council that there were plans to relaunch the Visit Skipton website, to develop a strong brand for Skipton, and to run virtual training sessions for businesses, as well as drop-in surgeries.

Ms Howsen, formerly city and town centres officer with Wakefield Council, said bills to Skipton's business rate payers to fund the BID would be going out shortly.

The BID receives income of around £150,000 per year from a levy paid by the town's business owners and collected by Craven District Council, she told the full meeting.

In 2009, it became one of the first BIDs to be set up in the country after the majority of businesses voted in support. Businesses voted again in 2014 for it to continue, and once more in 2019. The current term of the BID will end in 2024, when businesses will again have the chance to vote for it to continue for another five years.

Ms Howsen told councillors she was from Skipton, was really proud to BID manager and looked forward to the next two years heading up to the next ballot.

The central aims of the BID were to ensure Skipton was attractive and clean, to encourage people to visit and to offer business support, she said.

All money raised by the BID was ring-fenced for Skipton, including for Christmas lights, events and Skipton-in-Bloom.

There were she said 'a lot of long-standing commitments' that had to come out of the BID pot, and that it would not be easy for businesses and the town as the country came out of the pandemic.

There were some projects that had been in place before her time, including CCTV and WiFi, which she understood had experienced issues.

The BID would be re-launching the Welcome to Skipton website, and all businesses would be able to add to it, and she would work towards getting a strong Skipton brand, together with the town council and Craven District Council.

"That will be a big piece of work with all three partners working together," she said.

"A lot of businesses are saying Wednesdays are quiet. We shall be looking a discount days and trails, getting people off the High Street and encouraging them to go along the canal towpath and to Skipton woods."

Also planned are virtual training opportunities including in sales, marketing and accounting so that businesses could 'up-skill', she said, and she would also be setting up surgeries for people to drop in and talk to her.

She also hoped to make residents and businesses proud of Skipton "I don't think people realise what quality shops and restaurants we have. We need to engage with residents and businesses and make Skipton something they are proud of."

Ms Howsen said there was also a need for more directors to join the BID board and that she hoped to achieve a more diverse range of members.

Asked whether the BID would again fund the popular town ambassador scheme, she said the majority of BIDs ran similar schemes and although funding was 'tight', she thought it needed to be raised again.

Councillor Peter Madeley told the meeting that partnership working was key so money was not wasted on the same things.

"Skipton is in a dangerous situation as a market town, we need to keep on top of where we are."

Ms Howsen, who lives in Skipton, formerly worked for Wakefield Council where she was city and town centres officer, supporting the regeneration of high streets and offering business support across the district.

Andrew Mear, BID chair posted: "We are excited to welcome Sarah as BID manager, her experience and energy will drive our goal of being a high quality tourist destination and supporting the businesses in the opportunities this will bring."

Since it started in 2009, Skipton BID has invested about £1.5m in the town.