Business Improvement District approved for City’s main residential district: here’s some issues

As expected, businesses in the north west of the City of London have voted to establish a Business Improvement District, and will pay a levy that is expected to generate £9 million over the next five years.

The Culture Mile BID website says:

“Driven by the private sector, the Culture Mile BID will go live in April for a first five-year term, delivering a range of ambitious projects including major public realm enhancements, agenda-setting green and climate resilience initiatives and high-profile destination marketing campaigns. The Culture Mile BID will join the four BIDs already established in the City, Cheapside Business Alliance, EC BID, Fleet Street Quarter and Aldgate Connect BID.

“In the Culture Mile Partnership, of those businesses that voted, 85% voted ‘yes’ at the ballot (88% by rateable value)”.

We don’t know the turnout – the proportion of businesses that voted.

The new BID covers the City’s main residential area, including Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, and Barts Square. The proposed BID programme can be downloaded from the site.

The latest article says that the BID focus will be to:

  1. Create a more environmentally sustainable business district and tackle climate change in line with the City Corporations targets, specifically those within the Climate Action Strategy 2020-2027.
  2. Drive the continued post-pandemic recovery by supporting the return of office occupiers to the workplace, reviving international tourism, addressing recruitment challenges in the hospitality sector and helping the local economy adapt to new consumer profiles/behaviour.
  3. Maintain our role as an important bridge between the private and public sector, enabling partnerships that drive positive change not only in the BID area but the wider community too. We recognise that the area benefits from a vibrant and diverse community, with many residents who add real value to the area and its businesses. The partnership created by the BID will extend to all stakeholders.
  4. Use the collective strength of the BIDs in the City to lobby for continued local and central government investment in the CM BID area, keeping the Square Mile at the forefront of our economy.

My previous posts raised some of the issues facing the BID, residents and elected City Councillors.

  • What benefits will there be for residents? The initial proposals for the BID, developed to inform the ballot, included schemes for greening, easier walking and cycling, and reduction in air pollution. I suggested these could be welcome – if there were appropriate governance and community engagement.
  • What will be democratic accountability of the BID? A report to the City Policy and Resources committee gave details of the contractual arrangements, and there is a governance section in the proposals. The BID board will include one elected Ward Members and one officer. The question will be whether matters previously decided by elected Members will in future be taken on by the BID.
  • How will residents be able to engage with the BID? The BID proposals included the option of a community forum but it isn’t clear who will decide whether to set that up.
  • What will the BID be called, and look like on the streets? The City Corporation’s Culture Mile project is being “embedded” in the new Destination City programme from April. The BID is going to be offered Culture Mile public realm branding – but will that make sense to people if there isn’t really a Culture Mile? More here.
  • Will an alliance with the Destination City programme – aimed at attracting more visitors – also balance the interests of residents and help create a Liveable City?
  • The area includes four of the City’s major cultural and business sites: the Barbican Arts Centre, undergoing renewal; the controversial London Wall West site; the new London Museum site, and Smithfield Market, due to move. Mark Bostock and other Members have called for a strategic plan for the area. What role may the BID have in that?

The BID site article quotes Andrew Smith, Chairman of the Culture Mile Business Partnership as saying:

“I’m delighted that our business community has recognised the huge opportunity that a BID for the Culture Mile area represents. The news today means we will be able to deliver significant enhancements, enabling the private sector to help drive a new vision for the area. We stand ready to deliver our ambitious plans and working with our partners, the City and the local community we will now be able to play a leading role in this iconic area, curating and creating an attractive, competitive and resilient destination for London.”

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