BIDs braced for challenges of next decade

Monday 29 June 2015

BIDs have made a major contribution to London’s physical environment in the ten years since their inception, with a wide variety of services provided to make the capital a cleaner, greener, and more liveable place.

That was one of the positive messages to emerge from the London BID summit: the role of BIDs in improving the capital’s commercial centres, part of the NLA’s Public London programme.

Julie Grail, chief executive of British BIDs, said BIDs have developed significantly in their first decade from place management to place shaping, taking on more of a strategic voice, and with property owner BIDs the latest form of the movement. ‘It’s not just about bits and bobs anymore’, she said. ‘It is about big, strategic pieces for a place.’

BIDs are now doing important and necessary work in the capital, with 46 in operation, Grail citing their achievements in ‘cleaning up, promoting, enlivening and innovating’. This includes PaddingtonNow’s work in recycling, InMidtown’s work on zero-to-landfill, Victoria’s green audit work, and others including Kingston First’s extensive work on rejuvenating markets in the borough. 

Kingston First chief executive Ros Morgan said that the market had been critical in the success of the town centre and had removed what was a real, negative impact on the town and barrier to its vision, with an annual spend there of £4m across 30 stalls. But a key funding question relating to local authorities is a background factor too. ‘Ten years ago I could confidently stand up and say it is about additionality’, said Morgan. ‘With the austerity cuts and councils having to merge and offer joint procurement, those boundaries are starting to go from black and white to very grey.’

The conference also heard from speakers including The Portman Estate’s strategic projects director Simon Loomes, who said that with budget cuts and additionality, the years to come will see a marked change in the management of the streetscape. But Bilfinger GVA senior director John James said that occupiers now wanted active, interesting and lively places that BIDs could help to create. ‘They all want something more now’, he said. And LSE director Tony Travers said that BIDs first came about in an economy which was growing and where public resources were plentiful, so it was easy to argue that any services provided were ‘additional’ to those provided by councils, else there would have been little enthusiasm from its business funders. But funding is now in ‘an awkward position’, down from 4 per cent of the economy to 3 per cent now and projected to fall further.

Finally, Northbank BID chief executive Ruth Duston said there are both interesting challenges and opportunities ahead. ‘Yes, it’s all about additionality, but it’s much more now about partnership working and looking more creatively at how those partnerships can be established’, she said. ‘There’s a massive opportunity in years to come for us to be key players in the placemaking agendas of the areas that we operate in.’

David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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London's Business Improvement Districts play an important role in delivering better places and managed environments. The first London BID was set up ten years ago, so this London BID Summit provides a timely review of the governance of London's commercial centres.

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