Insight- June 2016
As the UK reels from the result of Thursday’s European Referendum, many BIDs will be starting to consider the implications for their areas and future activities. Employment, investment, trade and infrastructure are all seen in a new light as the country starts the process of leaving the European Union. For many BIDs, who have been the beneficiaries of European funding – both in terms of structural investment in their areas, but also as recipients of European grants for project funding – new sources of investment will need to be found. However, it is likely to take a time before the picture becomes clearer as to what these may be. We’ll be following developments on the implications of the Brexit vote in future editions.
In the BID world, this month has seen successful BID ballot results in Morecambe, Falkirk, Wimborne, Acocks Green Village and Northfield BIDs, both in Birmingham, as well as the Birmingham Retail BID. Further results are due at the end of the month in Bridgend and Barrhead. The Isle of Wight ballot result is due to be announced next month.
Look out for the next British BIDs ballot watch for full details of the results.
Research, Policy and Comment
135 responses have been received to the Nationwide BIDs Survey to date, equating to a 58% response of all BIDs. The deadline has been extended to mid July, so if you haven’t already responded please do take the time to contribute to this key piece of research that helps build a picture of the development of the BIDs industry and provides a powerful evidence base for the impact of BIDs and examples of best practice.
The British Retail Consortium has launched a new publication called the ‘Local Engagement Guide – navigating devolution of powers in England’ that highlights the importance of retailers engaging with BIDs.
Follow the BCSC’s reaction to the recent DCLG report on business rates and the proposed 100% business rates retention by Councils and comment on the importance of retailers being able to adapt, prompted by news of the failed BHS rescue bid.
The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has held the first meeting of the cross government retail roundtable, with big name retailers and discussions including business rates and levelling the playing field between online only retailers and those with high street presence.
BIDs and Neighbourhood Planning – taking the lead as local place-shapers
The role of BIDs in Neighbourhood Planning was a key point of discussion at last year’s British BIDs conference, as industry bodies urged BIDs to ensure they had a lead role in the development of these key pieces of local planning policy.
This month we talk to two areas where BIDs will have an important relationship with their neighbourhood plans – Milton Keynes, where the successful adoption of the first ‘business led neighbourhood plan’ has preceded the development of a BID in the town – and the South Bank and Waterloo, where two local BIDs (WeAreWaterloo and South Bank BID) have been heavily involved in the development of a neighbourhood plan that is due to go to referendum in early 2017.
Neighbourhood planning was introduced through the 2011 Localism Act to enable communities to shape development in their local areas. ‘Neighbourhood Development Plans’ become part of the Local Plan following a ballot of local people and the policies they contain are used to help decide planning applications. Neighbourhood plans are not allowed to prevent development that is already permitted in the Local Plans, but they can help shape what this development will look like.
In areas that are predominantly commercial, a ‘business led neighbourhood forum’ can be established. However, to be successfully adopted, plans developed must be voted in successfully by a twin ballot of local businesses and local residents.
Ben Stephenson, Chief Executive of the WeAreWaterloo BID is also Secretary of SoWN, the ‘South Bank and Waterloo Neighbours’ neighbourhood forum that is developing a neighbourhood plan for the area. He is hosted in his role as Secretary by the Waterloo BID, as a commitment by the BID to supporting the successful implementation of the plan.
The BID became involved in delivering the neighbourhood plan at a time when there were exciting conversations going on about what Waterloo should be in the future. Stephenson believes that, as an organisation that sees itself as strategic and placemaking, the BID really couldn’t ignore that conversation. He believes that the process has enabled the BID to lead on conversations around retail, workspace, air quality and transport that are embedded within the BIDs business plan and in this respect it has been possible to demonstrate to BID members the clear benefits and relevance of the BID’s involvement in the process. Even the lack of affordable housing has been raised by BID members as a barrier to recruitment, and although the neighbourhood plan doesn’t pretend to solve the problems, it has put forward suggestions which aim to address them locally.
Stephenson believes that the term ‘business led neighbourhood forum’ is not especially helpful. This type of forum is simply one in which businesses can vote in the referendum. However, it implies a level of control by businesses that is neither accurate nor appealing. In an area as diverse as the South Bank and Waterloo it has been important to be as open and democratic as possible, carefully shaping the constitution to reflect the area. Representation is by constituency within the neighbourhood to give both a geographical spread, and diversity of type – including large businesses, small businesses, large public institutions, local charities/not for profits, tenants and residents associations /Co-ops, residents, employees and Ward Councillors. The forum has over 500 members.
In considering the key advantages of having a strong business voice in the development of the neighbourhood plan, Stephenson believes that the process of developing the neighbourhood plan has been ‘a real gift’ to the Waterloo BID. The negotiations surrounding the process of setting up the forum and developing the plan has led to an atmosphere of collaboration and trust between the local business and resident communities that has helped both parties understand each other’s shared aspirations for the area against a backdrop of a historical lack of trust.
In neighbourhoods that experience a lot of development, businesses and residents are both equally affected by issues such as disruption, the pressures of increasing footfall, dust, noise, new uses and demographics. All of these affect the way the neighbourhood operates and can impact on the local economy as much as quality of life. Neighbourhood planning provides the opportunity to compel developers to consider the impact on local people who can identify causes for concern in ways the local authority never could.
The neighbourhood planning process also offers the opportunity to work with the council to develop a plan for spending Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which, in areas with a neighbourhood plan in place, amounts to 25% of the total CIL collected in that area. The development of a mechanism for defraying this money in the South Bank and Waterloo has prompted discussions about priorities for local spend, which has again required different groups to consider their shared aspirations for the area.
The extent to which the very process of neighbourhood planning has brought businesses and residents together to explore their common issues appears to have been a real benefit to the relationship of the BID with the local community. However, as Stephenson adds ‘I do think you need to demonstrate your commitment to transparency to achieve that, which can include letting go of power over the process.’
In the case of Milton Keynes, a BID is currently being developed for the town, which is due to go to ballot in February 2017. The town saw the successful adoption of the first ‘business led neighbourhood plan’ in May 2015. In this case, the developing BID is considering how the priorities of the local business community for the BID will sit alongside the policies of the neighbourhood plan, which were adopted after significant consultation and engagement with both the business and residential community.
Melanie Beck, City Centre Manager, is taking a pragmatic approach to the relationship of the emerging BID to the neighbourhood plan and speaking to a number of people involved in the plan’s development about how the priorities of the two could align.
She is mindful that the neighbourhood plan is first and foremost a strategic document. The neighbourhood forum that established the plan has disbanded since its successful adoption – in contrast to some areas where the neighbourhood forum has continued in some guise following the adoption of the plan. This is certainly the proposal in the South Bank and Waterloo neighbourhood, where the BID will seek continued involvement in overseeing the delivery of some of the plan’s objectives.
The most important consideration for the BID in Milton Keynes will be how the businesses want the levy to be spent. However, there may be scope to realise some of the aspirations of the neighbourhood plan through the BID, including the commercialisation of some areas of the town and animation through events and place-making.
However, whilst there will almost certainly be common themes between the BID and the neighbourhood plan, Beck is mindful that the plan is ‘an ingredient that will be taken into consideration, but just one element of what the BID may do. If there is synergy then that is a positive, but the plan is not a driver of the BID.’
It will be interesting to observe the ongoing relationship between BIDs and their neighbourhood plans – even more so when a neighbourhood forum remains in place. As priorities for the area change, BIDs will need to consider their approach if the plan is perceived no longer to accurately reflect the aspirations of its members. There may also be some conflict through the addition of effectively another lobbying organisation that may want to see community infrastructure levy allocated in a way that would not be the first priority of the BID.
However, Stephenson is again upbeat on this issue: ‘It may seem idealistic, but I think CIL is better spent when it benefits the aspirations of both the business and the residential community, especially since we seem to agree on such a lot…We might not win them all, but I think we’ll have a better neighbourhood at the end of it than in the whole process were left up to a distant council, or if the neighbourhood plan were left only to residents.’
BIDs in the news
Camden New Journal has referenced the work of Camden Town Unlimited and InMidtown as it discusses a prospective BID for Hampstead.
There is also positive local coverage of Newport Now BID as it reaches its one year anniversary, Nottingham BID’s expanded street ambassador scheme, Exeter BID’s Welcome Team’s work in greeting large numbers of visitors to the city centre and Manor Royal’s £270k wayfinding project. Sheffield BID has been profiled for removing graffiti from over 100 businesses.
There has also been great coverage for cultural events, such as the InKendal BID’s support of the torchlight carnival, whilst InSwindon BID has received extensive coverage for the two-day Alice Spectacular, when the town centre was turned into a festival of tea parties and mad hatters in the partnership between the BID company, the Brunel Shopping Centre the Parade and Regent Circus. The video footage from the event is well worth a look for inspiration!
inSwindon BID’s (Business Improvement District), Di Powell said: “This is an excellent example of what can be achieved with strong partnership working. Most people won’t realise that various areas of town centres are in fact owned and managed by several different organisations, with differing budgets and priorities; it’s not always feasible for us all to work together. I’m really pleased that we have achieved an event for the whole of the town centre and I very much hope this model can be repeated in the future”.
Please do tweet us your press coverage so that this can be shared with other BIDs and industry partners @britishbids
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