On the 25th of March 2015 we gathered at the London Beer Dispensary to find out more about how a Neighbourhood Plan can benefit local businesses. We discussed how and why local businesses should get involved and looked at funding mechanisms that could help deliver our neighbourhood aspirations for better local high streets.
After a brief presentation setting out the benefits and a quick intro on the business profile of the area, Georgina Dawkins from Urban Grain Consulting gave a brief introductory presentation to how Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) work and how they can additionally help provide a potential mechanism for funding local projects. Donald Campbell also illustrated how the ‘Team London Bridge‘ BID worked. There are currently approximately 32 BIDs in London.
Business Improvement Districts
A Business Improvement District (BID) is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area over a five year term. Businesses choose if they need a BID, then they decide what they want that BID to do. BIDs are run by businesses for businesses. They are governed by a Board of Directors that represent the business community. They establish a five-year plan in consultation with the businesses and are directed by the Board at every turn. As everyone contributes there are no freeloaders so everyone has a stake in what goes on. When operational can help businesses:
- Apply for grant funding
- Decide and direct what they want for their area
- Promote their local area
- Increase customer footfall
The BID Levy collected can be allocated to projects that would not be feasible without a collective approach from the whole community. These could take the form of more obvious marketing initiatives or environmental improvements. BID initiatives have helped local areas in the following ways:
- Loyalty schemes
- Promotional events
- Place branding / identity
- Advertising, press and awards
- Online and customer communications
- Additional security (wardens, police patrols or street ambassadors)
- New lighting
- New street furniture
- Greening (hanging baskets, trees etc.)
- Lobbying the LA and TfL for additional services (bus routes, train services)
- Additional street cleaning
- Public realm design
BIDs are a separate process to neighbourhood planning and must be led by the businesses themselves. Irrespective of whether it becomes a reality in our neighbourhood, the neighbourhood forum believe that a joint residents and business-led neighbourhood plan will result in a more inclusive and holistic plan and welcome the ongoing input from residents and businesses alike. The forum shall soon be initiating a business focus survey to capture a collective vision.