Helping the High Street: policy maker integration needed for Business Improvement Districts

New research examines the impact of over 300 UK BIDs on town centres and commercial areas

BIDs across the UK are investing over £100 million on local regeneration initiatives

BIDs across the UK are investing over £100 million on local regeneration initiatives

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have not been integrated into local authority and government policy-making, which is hampering their ability to help the High Street and other commercial areas, according to research from Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Introduced in 2005, BIDs are business-led partnerships created through a ballot process to deliver additional services to local areas.

In order to make a more positive contribution to the economy, society, culture and environment in places across the UK, BIDs need to be better understood and be brought into the policy making process by local authorities and government, the research says.

The new findings are included in a report from the Institute of Place Management (IPM) at Manchester Metropolitan University, which examines the development of the BID industry for the first time.

Recent data shows that between 2009 and 2017, footfall has declined 17.4% in the UK’s town and city centres. In contrast, there are now over 300 BIDs across the country spending over £100 million of levy income on local regeneration initiatives.

Better places

Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of the IPM at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Our research showed that, while BIDs continue to deliver real change in their areas, they need to develop more consistent approaches to governance. They also need to take the lead in identifying how the BID model should evolve to better meet the needs of levy payers and the wider communities they serve.”

The IPM at Manchester Metropolitan is a professional body supporting people committed to developing, managing and making places better. The Institute was recently commissioned by the UK Government to collect evidence and contribute to the new “High Street Report”, published in December 2018.

Recommendations from the report and the IPM are expected to be taken forward by the government’s new High Streets Task Force, once it is established, in conjunction with the £675 million Future High Street Fund designed to help town centres plan better spaces for their communities.

Stronger relationships

Commissioned by the BID Foundation – an independent body providing an authoritative voice for the industry – the IPM’s new research analysed data from the UK and Northern Ireland’s 300 town centre and industrial BIDs.

The resulting report was launched today (April 30) at the BID Foundation’s spring conference at Southwark Cathedral in London.

Catherine Mitton, Executive Director at the BID Foundation, said: “This research is an important step forward for BIDs in the UK, and represents the first nationwide exercise to understand how we are performing as an industry.

“The BID Foundation will use the information to help development stronger relationships with local authorities, Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) as well as national government, so that we can continue to help BIDs evolve at a time when they are so clearly needed.”   

The research also found:

The IPM will deliver follow-up research in 2020, which will demonstrate the economic impact of BIDs since they were introduced.

The full report and executive summary can be found here.

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