According to the latest British BIDs report, Business Improvement Districts in the British Isles 2019, the UK has seen a 5% increase in active BIDs and an 8% rise in BIDs currently under development, suggesting that local business communities are continuing to see the benefit to both town and city centres.
While Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are primarily a funded body formed to improve any defined commercial area, they have played a crucial role when it comes to helping revive Britain’s high streets, especially as issues have grown more critical in the past 12 months. This is largely due to a combination of shifting consumer habits and an increase in rents and business rates. Consequently, figures from PwC and the Local Data Company recorded a net loss of 2,481 stores from the UK’s top 500 high streets in 2018.
To counter this, 2019 to date has been an incredibly active year for policy matters relating to these problems. Following the publication of the Timpson report, The High Street and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) committee’s High Streets and town centres in 2030 inquiry, the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee is now looking seriously at business rate reform. Subsequently, the first phase of the Future High Streets Fund was announced and a task force has since been set up to help allocate the money.
Professor Christopher Turner, CEO of British Bids, comments: “There is now an acute awareness of the problems facing the high street and it is positive to see this being acknowledged at policy level. The fact that we continue to see an increase in both active BIDs and those under development proves that local businesses are willing to put in crucial funding to ultimately safeguard the future of their town and city centres.”
London is currently home to more than 20% of the active and developing BIDs in the UK, followed by Scotland and the South East with 11.84% and 10.9% respectively. In contrast Ireland and the North East have the least with just 1%. Meanwhile in Yorkshire & Humber, the region has seen an increase from 3.6% in 2018 to 5.61% in the past 12 months.
Paul Clement, head of place-shaping at Savills, adds: “The fact that we are seeing an increase in active BIDs in locations such as Yorkshire & Humber proves that they are working. Local authorities are seeing the positive impact BIDs are having on nearby regional centres and are keen to replicate this success. We expect this proliferation to continue as more and more places start to see the benefits.”
Key initiatives that BIDs are involved in include crime reduction, with 81% now heavily involved in Business Crime Reduction Partnerships which assist with local policing. In addition, experiential retail is also playing a large role, helping to counter the major transformation e-commerce has had on traditional bricks-and-mortar store models. The night time economy is another strategic focus, with towns and cities estimated to bring in over £60 billion to the UK every year. The Local Government Association’s recent report on Approaches to managing the night-time economy included examples from as many as 10 BIDs who have already implemented successful strategies. Curating the high street and supporting independent stores and introducing things like public free city-wide wireless are also being tested by BIDs including Falmouth, New West End, Winchester and Cardiff.
Paul concludes: “Moving forward, we believe that more locations are likely to see the benefits of pursuing these kind of place-shaping initiatives as BIDs are uniquely placed to help combine both physical and social constructs to create places that people want rather than need to be. As a result, we anticipate that the number of BIDs will continue to increase across the UK as stakeholders witness these transformations first-hand. Decided via public ballot, BIDs are designed to be an inclusive and democratic process and for this reason is likely to prove essential to reviving Britain’s high streets.”