April's Insight from Chris Turner - 2021


We are now moving into a new phase of the pandemic exit, and much is happening in BIDs, as many of our towns and cities partially reopened on Monday. Of course, the roadmap is very different in the four administrations, and many of our national levy payers and BIDs have had to adapt to very different rules and timelines. Nonetheless, the future is starting to look a little brighter. There is a sense that the UK is bouncing back more strongly than expected, amid a savings boom of some £121bn, equivalent to close to 10% of total household consumption in cash terms last year. Business surveys from the Institute for Directors (IoD) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) showed that most small and medium-sized business owners expected growth to accelerate during the year as consumers returned to high streets and face-to-face contact resumed. 

The papers are also full of stories of excitement that is palpable and if you believe the hype, we’re in for a “Roaring 2020s,” with all of the frivolity of the 1920s, when a wave of euphoria washed over much of the world after the ending of both the influenza pandemic and World War I. Some of this must be taken with a pinch of salt, but the mood is one of newness.

Clearly, there is much rethinking going on in retail, the new high street experience and reimagining what shoppers might look for, with retailers emerging as ‘experience designers’ discovering what the customer either already wants or doesn’t know yet that they want it, and once they have it, they’ll feel like they can’t live without it. Some interesting work is going on in some of the big tech companies; it always worth thinking way ahead and here is some work going on in Salesforce.

We are using the Insight Online session next week April 20th, 14:30 - 15:30 to talk about some of these issues, look at the latest reopening, share experiences across BIDs, take an opportunity for everyone to celebrate what they have been doing,  along with guest speakers Matt Simms from Croydon BID and Karen Pengelly from Epsom BID. You can sign up here.

On the more prosaic level of BID ballots, the four weeks since the February Insight have been busy for BIDs across the country, with a further 13 successful ballots, but sadly two failures. We congratulate York, Bilston, Great Yarmouth BID, Blackpool, Your Oxted, New West End [both property and occupier], Newry, Belfast One, Hammersmith, Rugby First, Hatton Garden, Ballymena for their next terms. Sadly, Albion and Aberystwyth didn’t make it.

We are working on the April edition of the Business Barometer, which will come out next week with a great deal of further analysis, but we do know that since the first lockdown on 23rd March last year we have had 53 ballots, with four failures and 49 successes, with some very decent results. New West End had a 99.5% yes vote and a 99.7% by RV, which might be one of the best overall outcomes we have seen thus far!

2022 is set to be a year of celebration for the UK with three major events, Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Commonwealth Games and Festival UK* 2022 all set to take place. Ten creative teams from across the UK have been selected to develop a series of events, public engagement programmes and virtual projects as part of the Festival UK* 2022. This will be a major UK-wide festival of creativity and innovation, which will feature major public engagement projects designed to reach millions, bring people together and showcase the UK’s creativity globally. The projects look exciting, are very much collectives, and many are based in towns and cities with BIDs. The full list is here. Bb is already planning a workshop on BIDs and Culture and Creativity later in the year, with both Coventry and Birmingham BIDs, home to the 2021 City of Culture and the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

British BIDs, along with planners, developers and designers have lined up against new residential conversion right; they have all reacted with dismay to the government’s decision to push through an expansion of permitted development rights allowing the conversion of high street properties to houses despite vocal opposition. The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) described the move as a disaster for UK high streets, while developer body the British Property Federation (BPF) said the deregulation would do “more harm than good”. The plans, announced by press release prior to publication of the full detail, will see the vast majority of high street uses, ranging from shops, restaurants, offices, health centres, nurseries and gyms, the right to be converted into housing without requiring planning permission. More information here.

The great irony in the move was the almost simultaneous announcement of a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry to examine the Government’s approach to permitted development rights! The inquiry will examine the impact that an expansion of the PDR system has had, and will continue to have, on the planning system and the Governments targets for new homes and economic growth. It will also examine the impact at a local level, including the ability of local authorities to plan development holistically, developer contributions and the provision of services to meet changing local needs. The inquiry will also consider the further changes to permitted development outlined in the planning White Paper. The inquiry is open now and BIDs have up to April 30 to make their views known here.

Business rates remain a major issue. The interim report, which was merely a summary of responses to the call for evidence was published on 23rd March, and is available here. It feels like a damp squib of a document, summarising input from many sources, including Bb, but saying little. There will be a fuller response in the autumn, but there is a view among many that there will not be time for any serious changes for the next year. This of course is now being rather overshadowed by the Biden administration calling for the world’s biggest multinational companies to pay levies to national Governments based on their sales in each country, as part of an ambitious proposal for a global minimum tax. The plan would apply to the global profits of the very largest companies, including big US technology groups, regardless of their physical presence in a given country. The US Treasury laid out its proposal in documents sent to the 135 countries negotiating international taxation at the OECD in Paris. The story could be a game changer if taken forward and is here and here.

On a final note, the first cohorts this year of our Certificate in BID Management (CiBM) and Diploma in BID Leadership (DiBL) course are now forging ahead, but we are starting to recruit for the second cohorts later on in the year; further details are available from Evan or here for CiBM and here for DiBL.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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