21st January 2024
Business Improvement District leaders have met throughout January to share their priorities for UK high streets and address key challenges across issues like safety and security, environmental sustainability, footfall and spend.
The BID Foundation has convened three Working Groups throughout January – ‘Safe and Secure’, ‘Place Marketing’, and ‘Net Zero and Environmental Sustainability’. These provide a forum for Business Improvement Districts to share insights from their own areas and local partnerships, helping to create a national picture of the issues affecting place.
Increasing demands on BID staff to ensure safety and vitality of high streets
A clear theme of discussion throughout January is the range of local issues which BID teams engage in, including via their on-street colleagues such as rangers and wardens. These front-line staff are both increasingly in demand - to deal with incidents and the range of different communities that use high streets – and valued by consumers as they perceive a greater presence of staff committed to delivering safe, managed spaces.
In many areas, particularly those facing cuts to non-statutory council budgets that impact on high street management, these BID teams provide vital, on-the-ground local knowledge and resource. As many BIDs have increasingly dedicated more budget to these services, there is a need to identify how they can be supported into the future, in partnership with other local stakeholders and acknowledged in national policy.
With a rise in reported retail crime and the introduction of Martyn’s Law requiring proactive measures to protect publicly accessible spaces (Protect Duty), Business Improvement Districts are also investing in training and development to ensure their staff are equipped to advise and support local businesses.
York’s ‘Restaurant Week’ amongst new concepts raising awareness of town and city offers
The BID Foundation’s Place Marketing working group in January welcomed a presentation from York BID on their ‘Restaurant Week’ initiative which raises awareness of the hospitality offering in the city and incentivises people to enjoy a meal out. This year, the week will be held from 11-17th March with more details on the campaign being launched in York soon.
The national picture for hospitality has been troubling over the past 12 months, to add to the hangover from Covid closures and debt since 2021. More high profile restaurants are closing their doors around the UK – such as the Manchester-suburb stalwart, Simon Rimmer’s Greens – and many proprietors cite the ease of supermarket dine-in deals as a key threat. This makes raising the profile of these unique local assets crucial. In York’s case, a voucher and set of local deals incentivises people to take part during Restaurant Week, as well as exposure of the sector via the BID’s marketing campaign.
It's clear from the BID working group the value of these coordinated campaigns, supported with sophisticated promotion and a place-based brand. Estimates put the cumulative economic impact of work on Restaurant Week in York since 2019 to be above £1million in spend generated, with the trend going upwards as the BID runs more events.
Behaviour change that enriches lives in the city
Amidst recent attention on the cost of doing business, and of maintaining a bricks and mortar presence on high streets, efforts to focus on the net zero transition have found the headlines as broader political debates and global initiatives like COP 28 in Dubai. However, many BIDs have made environmental sustainability the core of their local strategies and are supporting levy payers with their own behaviour change.
At the most recent meeting of The BID Foundation’s Net Zero and Environmental Sustainability working group, BID leaders shared learnings on projects such as carbon literacy, greening of the public realm, consolidation of deliveries using bike couriers, active travel and air quality.
In a complex policy landscape which requires strong communication to office workers and other users of towns and cities, a key ally has been pairing the progressive steps of carbon reduction with other benefits like long-term cost savings and appealing employee perks that support attracting new talent into businesses.
As IPM Fellows discussed the recent Long-Term Plan for Towns, a policy investing over £1bn in 55 towns around the UK, there is a lack of guidance or instruction to address environmental sustainability which is often the case for new government policy. It’s clear that mature and effective BIDs are key to the civic life of their areas and their collective efforts to raise awareness of and address climate change. Throughout 2024, finding ways to support BIDs and broaden out participation and local partnerships for change will be key.
Join The BID Foundation and its working groups
If you’re part of a UK Business Improvement District and would like to get involved in the discussion as part of our programme of working groups, please get in touch via info@BIDFoundation.co.uk