Business Improvement Districts on the rise

At the heart of the coalition government’s localism agenda is the devolution of power towards communities. Future of London’s recent event on localism, planning, and community empowerment explored how different types of communities have organised into local-scale institutions beyond traditional governance structures. This discussion included the well-established case of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), which – as Camden Town Unlimited’s Chief Executive Simon Pitkeathley framed it – “have been doing localism for a long time”. This post introduces the BID landscape in London.

London’s BID Landscape

London is home to the UK’s first BID, Kingstonfirst, which was successful at ballot in 2004. Today, there are currently 30 Business Improvement Districts in London, and this number continues to rise annually. 16 of these BIDs are already in the second or third terms, having successful passed their renewal ballots, and no London BID has failed at renewal. At least eight further business communities in London are at different stages of BID development.  Despite this demonstrated interest, BIDs are unevenly distributed across London: while the City of Westminster houses six BIDs, 16 London boroughs have none. The map also illustrates the dispersal of BIDs across both inner and outer London, and captures the range of business communities that have formed BIDs, from town centres to industrial parks.

Figure 1: Presence of BIDs in London, by borough, by number of BIDs

*BIDs that cross borough boundaries are counted as one BID for each borough involved.

The Future of BIDs in London

The upward trend in the establishment of BIDs is likely to continue, as the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority are supportive of BIDs as tools for local economic growth. The 2010 Economic Development Strategy established this support in its article 5.13 “The Mayor will encourage the continued designation of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), which are effective vehicles for collaborative working, in town centres and elsewhere”. BIDs were further featured in Mayor Boris Johnson’s economic growth strategy in his successful 2012 electoral campaign. He has the stated aim of increasing the number of London BIDs to 50 within his four year term to 2016, with particularly attention to town centres in Outer London boroughs. The GLA similarly endorses the concept of BIDs, highlighting their ‘place shaping’ role. The GLA supports BIDs by convening representatives from London BIDs and the GLA semi-annually, through the Mayor London’s BID Awards, and through ad-hoc political support to business communities during BID establishment.

With growing numbers every year, and with their political support, BIDs are increasingly an institution that London’s local governments should be exploring. This understanding is the beginning of Future of London’s work exploring the potential role of Business Improvement Districts in regeneration and economic development.

For more information on BIDs

British BIDs, a national organisation dedicated to BID industry, has comprehensive background information on BIDs that is available here. They also recently released the Nationwide BID Survey 2012, a valuable source of financial data (amongst other information) that includes survey responses from the majority of London BIDs.

Jennifer, FoL