AUGUST INSIGHTS BY CHRIS TURNER


At the height of the summer, BIDs are already well into their planning for the major winter festivals later in the year! Thus, they are very busy, and much is happening on the High Street.

Many BIDs are moving to experiential winter events, partly in response to the new Martyn’s Law and the proposed new Duty to Protect, but also because of costs and the changing public appetite. There are many interesting alternative projects that BIDs have been involved in across the country; Vamos Theatre are here again with a new Winter event and the British BIDs suppliers portal has many others, including Odin Events; both have worked with BIDs across the country. Do please take a look as you plan.

BID ballots tend to slow down in the height of the summer, but there have nonetheless been six successful ballots in the last four weeks, and we congratulate Clevedon, Colchester, Lancing Business Park, Newham, Shrewsbury, and Stoke on Trent. There are five further ballots coming up in the early autumn.

As ever we are always looking at what's happening in retail and the high street and any emergent thinking, and much is indeed happening. There is a view from some that attempts to resuscitate the high street have continued to focus on the outdated model of finding a single flagship retail tenant that will draw shoppers back in. But as suggested by a new report, More than Stores, thinking beyond the retail model may give our high streets the shot in the arm they need. More detailed follow up analysis asks, “when did the town centre become a place to shop, dine, and work, but not to live?” There is new thinking that vacant high street space presents an opportunity to tackle the housing crisis, creating varied communities through mixed-tenure developments that include build-to-rent, single-family and, crucially, senior living. With the right incentives, churches, town halls and medieval pubs can be transformed into cultural hubs in the form of music venues, cafés and art galleries according to Building Design.

Some of this is mirrored in politicians’ thinking. Two all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) have called on the Government to turn empty buildings into affordable housing, after their report found that repurposing properties could create thousands of new homes. The report, which was published following an inquiry by the APPG for Housing Market and Delivery and the APPG for Ending Homelessness, found that 20,000 homes could be created from empty local authority buildings alone.

This is evidenced in the pretty amazing plans for the 608,000 sq ft Tottenham warehouse that was home to an Ikea for 17 years to become a leading new cultural venue for London. Entitled Drumsheds, it will host “a carefully curated programme of music, arts, culture and community” according to its owners Broadwick. Drumsheds will have a capacity of 15,000, making it one of the largest indoor venues in the capital, outstripping the likes of 10,250-capacity Alexandra Palace and 12,500-capacity Wembley Arena.

Some of this is linked to the many social changes wrought by Covid, not least the issues around commuting and working from home, and for the economics geeks amongst you, the Marchetti Constant. The changing positions on working from home will have interesting repercussions on BIDs in town and city centres, compared to the suburbs and outlying commuter towns, and it seems clear that the position is changing fast. For many the office is back. Amazon has issued a warning to staff who are not spending at least three days a week in the office. Meta wants its workers to do the same from next month. And if further proof were needed that working from home has officially been replaced by return to office, it was provided by Zoom. The firm, whose revenues jumped 300% during the first year of the pandemic, last week asked employees to come in for at least two days a week. Chief executives are very keen to get workers back more often, according to Odgers Berndtson, an executive search firm. “The chief executive community want more time in the office at the moment, and when one breaks cover and starts becoming more dictatorial about it, the rest will follow,” they said. The main reason was a “genuine problem” presented by the shift to remote working: the pipeline of talent is drying up. There was alarm among some recruiters about the impact of working from home.

Our new Chair, Nic Durston, has already spoken of the Government review of BIDs mentioned by Baroness Scott, the Under Secretary of State DLUHC, in his new monthly British BIDs piece for members. We are working with ATCM, The BID Foundation and the IPM on a shared response that can gather and manage the various industry contributions and thoughts to inform the DLUHC review. We will speak more on this as our report becomes available and we will spend time on it at the National Conference on 2nd November in Euston, London.

The Safer Streets fund is now open for a further round, when the Secretary of State announced an additional £60 million investment in improving public safety through the launch of the fifth round, running over the second half of the 2023/24 and the whole of the 2024/25 financial year. Many BIDs, particularly those with Business Crime Reduction Partnerships have benefitted from this funding. To date, £120 million has been spent on initiatives such as improving street lighting and home security to cut neighbourhood crime. This follows the government’s commitment to crack down on antisocial behaviour. People in communities that have had extra CCTV and street lighting rolled out are less likely to worry about being mugged or robbed, the safer streets review has found. The findings also show that the fund is helping to build confidence in the police, with residents in these areas more likely to think their local police are doing a good or excellent job. This reflects the efforts made to make residents aware of the work being done to make them feel more secure such as fitting new locks, video doorbells and alarms.

The government Levelling up funding streams – amounting to some £10 billion – are vital sources of local investment, and the National Audit Office has announced a review this coming autumn. This will a valuable analysis of what works and what doesn’t by way of place making regeneration. It was a tad depressing to read that the Dluhc has had to give back £ 1.9billion to the Treasury this year; they recently confirmed a report that said it had underspent by £1.9bn and was handing the money back to the chancellor, with the cash including £255m of affordable housing funding given back to the Treasury and £1.2 bn of Help to Buy money levelling up repayments.

As ever, a reminder from me that most of these issues are picked up and spoken of in our various training programmes. This year’s Certificate in BID Management is coming to an end next month, with research reports and presentations from students; the next cohort is recruiting for next year. The Diploma in BID Leadership autumn cohort is starting next month, and there is the usual continuous suite of short courses. All the information is available here.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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