Community forum in the City’s Culture Mile set for approval

Update: The City’s Policy and Resources committee approved proposals for the CultureMile BID on October 20, with little discussion. Several members pressed for clear methods for resident involvement. Guidance was that this would be through steering groups. There was no specific mention of a community forum. Video of the committee discussion here.

Proposals for a new community forum in the north west of the City of London – including Barbican and Golden Lane Estate estates – are confirmed in recommendations to the City’s Policy and Resource Committee on October 20.

The committee is recommended to approve a wide-ranging plan for the BID, which I’ve previously covered in posts here.

If approved by the committee, the BID plans will be launched in November, with a ballot of businesses in January about the plans and a proposed levy on businesses to raise £1.8 million in the first year. The BID would operate from April 1.

The committee paper mainly summarises proposals that are on the BID website. However, these sections may be of particular interests to residents:

Resident engagement section

6 In developing the Draft BID Proposals, Members of those Wards in the footprint have been consulted and invited to comment. Concerns were raised in respect of resident engagement / involvement in respect of developing and delivering the BID proposals given the large concentration of residents that live within the footprint (Barbican and Golden Lane). There has been some confusion between the City of London led ‘Culture Mile’ project and the Culture Mile Partnership so work was undertaken to distinguish the two entities.

7 An interim brand for the Partnership was developed, along with a BID ballot focused website. This approach was shared with Ward Members twice during the summer, offering follow up meetings, sharing the evolving BID proposal and encouraging a dialogue to develop in a meaningful way to engage with residents.

The Partnership has also fed into a local blog, The Social Reporter, as well as placed a feature with City Matters about how BIDs across the Square Mile engage with their wider communities. Whilst BIDs are a specific vehicle for business engagement and will be funded by business, the BID proposal makes it clear that there is a strong commitment from the Partnership and future BID to work collaboratively with the wider community. A specific reference to this commitment has been included in the Governance of the BID proposal, the wording is as follows:

“The Culture Mile BID wants to work collaboratively with its residential communities, recognising the valuable contribution the wider community makes to the vibrancy and identity of the area. We want to develop a framework for meaningful engagement, which enables residents to feed into the work, not simply be informed of its plans. This could take the form of a Community Forum, facilitated by the BID, resident involvement with steering groups and development of agreed channels of communication between residents and the BID. Together, we can build a stronger more resilient, more inclusive and welcoming Culture Mile to benefit residents, businesses and visitors”.

Links and comment: I think that this may be the sponsored content in City Matters, featuring a number of projects with community involvement, and that the “local blog” is this one. Confusion about the title (Connections) may have arisen because I have another blog at Anyway, flattered to be mentioned.

There was some discussion over the summer about whether to go for a Neighbourhood Forum – which has statutory powers, or an informal Community Forum. I’ve done some notes on Neighbourhood Forums and Plans. The Victoria BID supports a Neighbourhood Forum. I couldn’t find examples of community forums in BIDs, so the Culture Mile Forum will have to be custom-designed. There may be useful ideas in the Community Improvement District model, which I’ve written about here.

Inspiring Places section

12 The BID will drive a high-quality placemaking programme to bring vibrancy to the streetscape and deliver a culture-led public realm – stimulating imaginations and supporting wellbeing and productivity. It will ensure that Culture Mile attracts and retains the very best talent – in turn encouraging investment in the area. The BID will take action to improve wayfinding, highlight the area’s remarkable heritage, and support its independent retail and hospitality offer to thrive. Projects to be delivered include the development of a Public Realm Vision for the area that maps public and private spaces and opportunities for activation and enhancement, building on the City Corporation’s Culture Mile Look & Feel Strategy of 2018. This will provide a blueprint for future work and investment, some of which can be delivered solely by the BID and on other projects working collaboratively with the City Corporation and statutory partners. The BID would deliver high-quality wayfinding and creative pop-ups across Smithfield, Moorgate and around the Barbican, mitigating the impact on those travelling through the area of the construction works being delivered over this period, in partnership with the City Corporation. Also delivered under this theme would be the creation of a safety group to coordinate the needs of businesses, visitors, and residents around the area’s late evening economy.

Links and comment: In 2018 The Look and Feel Strategy and its 100-page Detailed delivery plan provided a comprehensive strategy for the area covering improvements to streets and public spaces, public information services, digital guides for visitors, and more. I’ve put together links here from the launch, which included a video What will Culture Mile look like in future?

Since then cuts in funding, and the pandemic, have reduced the Culture Mile programme, and it is now organised on a project basis with different organisations each taking a lead in different areas. More on that in a report to Culture, Heritage and Libraries committee in July this year.

It looks as if the BID will take the lead in developing a new Public Realm Strategy, and on some of the projects. As I wrote earlier, the priorities of businesses and residents may well align on many plans, but this seems an area where the role of the community forum will be important.

Governance section

19 Subject to a successful ballot outcome, the City Corporation will contract with the Culture Mile Board (a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee) to act as the delivery agent to implement the five-year BID Proposal. It is proposed that the terms of the contract be delegated to the Executive Director Environment in consultation with the City Solicitor. The Culture Mile Partnership will manage the implementation of the BID Proposal, overseeing the executive team.

In addition, the BID proposals document on its website says:

The Board will be supported by an Executive Team. It is proposed that the Executive Team and associated costs are primarily met through voluntary contributions received and not from the core levy generated.

It is the intention that following a successful ballot outcome the Culture Mile BID will appoint Primera to manage and deliver the BID’s proposed activities, with an initial 12 month contract. The strategic leadership will be provided by the Primera executive team.

Comment Governance is a sensitive area in the development of BIDs, and I’ve developed some notes here. The 10 or 12 strong BID Board, contracted to deliver plans, will consist of business representative plus one City council member and one City officer.

The overall recommendation to Policy and Resources on October 20 is to:

  • Agree the BID Proposal to allow progression to formal Ballot
  • In the event of a successful ballot, authorise the Executive Director Environment to appoint the Culture Mile Partnership to deal with day-today implementation of the BID Proposals on behalf of the City Corporation and delegate to the Executive Director Environment, in consultation with the City Solicitor, authority to agree the terms of the appointment in accordance with the principles in this report.
  • In the event of a successful ballot, delegate authority for the day-to-day management of the BID Body’s functions to the Executive Director Environment (subject to this being exercised in accordance with the contracted arrangements and with the BID levy receipts credited to the BID account).

I still think, as I wrote in August that Latest business improvement plans could make City neighbourhoods better for all. If … … with the If being agreement on suitable terms of governance and community engagement. Consultants Primera, who are developing the BID, have committed to the forum and further engagement following discussion with council members. I hope this blog helped as well.

So far I think I’m the only person writing publicly about the BID, and so emboldened by the mention in committee paper, it seems important to share some outstanding questions in my mind:

  • What will happen to the Culture Mile programme from April 2023? Will there be any core staff, and a distinct strategy directed by councillors – or will the BID in effect be in the driving seat?
  • What influence will council members have over direction of the BID and its plans – with only one member on the Board?
  • How will the community forum be convened and designed? The BID proposals say the Forum will be facilitated by the BID. Could City council members also play a part in promoting the idea of a forum – if they agree with it – and help guide its development?
  • Could the BID have its own blog, if proposals are agreed? That could explain further the relationship between Culture Mile and the BID, and answer questions from businesses, residents and other interests about plans being put to the ballot.


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