November's insight from Chris Turner


This Insight is coming out right in the middle of the latest lockdown in England, and it is affecting all of us. Some BIDs have been in lockdown for many months and we hope to come out of this as soon as possible. One senior BID Chief Exec said last week that at least with a vaccine in the offing there is the beginning of some light ahead of us. Nonetheless it is difficult across the five countries to deal with the very differing rules and regulations. 

As part of the government support in England during the current lockdown, there has been a new funding line opened up through local authorities, which most BIDs are now well aware of, but we reiterate it here to allow those who have not yet picked it up to disseminate it to levy payers. The Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions between 5 November and 2 December 2020. You can find the full information here. Similar schemes are being run in the other administrations. 

Much continues to happen. Our recently appointed high streets Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said in parliament three days ago that “Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are a proven and effective vehicle for leveraging private investment and have a significant role to play in high street regeneration. Their role will be even more important in the recovery phase from the current crisis. BID organisations are advised to work closely with their members, sector bodies and local authorities in coming to sensible arrangements on charging given the current circumstances”. Read the full comment here.   

This was in response to a question about BID levies being waived for the year. We have been advising BIDs across the country that it would be unwise to make any reductions in BID levy for members; most are paying, and the independents are very specifically paying because they feel strongly that what BIDs provide is a necessary support for their future developments. All our feedback from levy payers suggests that allowing some levy payers not to pay their dues seems to be grossly unfair on those who have. We continue to talk to the national levy payers to persuade them that paying their BID levy as soon as possible is the right thing to ensure that our high streets recover fully. I have spoken to many, and am happy to pick up any contacts that BIDs would like to forward to me.  

This belief in the underlying support for BIDs is reinforced by the latest ballot data. Despite our original concerns earlier in the year, there have now been seven successful ballots since the first lockdown, and this last month Camden Town Unlimited, Euston Town, Nottingham, and Ulverston were all successful renewal ballots and Felixstowe was a brand-new BID.  

This is important, because there are 53 ballots coming up before March 31 2021, and there will be much pressure on BIDs to deliver. Bb is running its usual range of nine training courses on, amongst others, business plans, renewal ballots, and local authority guidance and they are all being well supported. Bb is running some bespoke courses for individual BIDs on these issues. Do please email me or Evan on evan.gartland@brishbids.info for more information or find out what courses we offer here

As part of the support network for BIDs Storecheckers has been monitoring the wearing of masks across Britain’s High Streets for several months and the latest results show a welcome increase in their use by shoppers, from 79% to 84%. This was accompanied by a marked rise in shop staff adherence to using face coverings, up 31% to 91%. Initially, stores were slow to insist all staff wore masks, which impacted confidence within the high street. Following the government’s clearer direction on this, the rise in mask wearing amongst store staff has led to an upturn in customer confidence. The correlation is clear in the research.  

It is clear that both crime and counterterrorism is becoming an increasing issue for many of us in our town centres managing and running BIDs, and we have now been invited to join the Counter Terrorism Business Information Exchange, which will allow the business community, particularly those independents represented by BIDs, to engage very specifically in the latest counterterrorism information coming from the counterterrorism group. I know that many of us are involved in business crime reduction partnerships, but the counterterrorism group are very keen that we work more closely together at a strategic level; this will sit alongside our work with the National Business Crime Solutions. Pete Fisher, General Manager of the NBCS will be presenting to our network of Industrial and Business Park BIDs at their next meeting on 3rd December. If any Industrial BIDs wishes to find out more contact mel.richardson@britishbids.info.

Many of you are concerned and have been involved in the planning for the future consultation, which proposes reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed. The data is still being collected and we’ve yet to see the final outcome. Nonetheless the pressure on the housing secretary Robert Jenrick has been strong and he has now specifically said that ‘All new homes in England delivered through any Permitted Development Right (PDR) must meet space standards’. The LGA are involved in these debates and their take is available here. The concerns of many BIDs, raised in our various research and training sessions, is that these new regulations may allow empty business properties both on and off the High Street to be turned into low-level and low quality residential property, which would reduce both BID levy funding and change the look and feel of high streets as centres of high-quality business. 

As ever we are starting to plan the 13th Certificate in BID Management 2021 and the second cycle of the Diploma in BID Leadership. If you have an interest do please contact me or Evan evan.gartland@brishbids.info or check our website.


Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs


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