BIDs uncovered

Related tags Better Business improvement district

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are fast becoming a popular way of improving the image of town and city centres. More than 40 are now in place...

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are fast becoming a popular way of improving the image of town and city centres.

More than 40 are now in place in the UK and last month Nottingham was revealed as the latest city wishing to adopt the concept.

The Nottingham BID means pubs will have to invest collectively in local improvements to upgrade the overall trading environment.

But will licensees benefit from BIDs, are they an improvement on Alcohol Disorder Zones (ADZs), and what effect do they have on property prices?

Richard Matthews, regional secretary of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) for Midland Counties, who is helping co-ordinate the Nottingham BID, is convinced the idea can be positive.

"It can help to portray a better image and market the city," he explains. "The Nottingham BID is unique in that it is the only one that exclusively involves the licensed economy and no other businesses."

Evidence would suggest that BIDs can have a positive effect. One of the country's most famous examples is Birmingham's Broad Street which has seen a 60 per cent reduction in crime, with violent crime down by 27 per cent in its first year of operation.

Nadia Nath-Varma, policy officer of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, also supports the concept.

"They have the potential to improve many of our town centres," she says. "BIDs provide a sustainable form of funding which benefits from being 100 per cent ring-fenced and are not subject to freeloading - unlike voluntary town centre management schemes."

Where does the money go?

The money raised from a BID can be used for many different purposes. It can include extra security, environmental measures and promotion of the area.

In a recent survey of businesses in the designated Nottingham BID area, 53 per cent of pubs and clubs said they would like to see money raised from the BID spent on restoring the city's reputation and promoting it as a safe night out. And 34 per cent identified street safety as their priority.Drawbacks

However, Nath-Varma is not entirely convinced by all aspects of BIDs. She says: "A drawback is that the occupier contributes through business rates and the landlord - who is likely to benefit from the enhanced value of the properties - contributes nothing."

But the alternative to BIDS, ADZs, are seen as a less attractive prospect. The Bar Entertainment & Dance Association regards BIDs as a better option than ADZs, while the BBPA has said the regulations for ADZs, which could see pubs paying £100 a week towards the initiative, are "fundamentally flawed".

Impact on prices

However, property agents have yet to notice a significant impact from BIDS on the pub market - and not all are in favour of the concept.

Barry Gillham, chairman of Fleurets, is dismissive of them. "BIDs are a way of the government making operators pay for their own policing," he argues. "It's another business expense for operators."

But Colin Wellstead, director of property agent Christie + Co, cannot see prices being affected. He says: "Most pubs within a BID in a town centre are corporate-owned so property prices are not affected as the pubs do not change hands."

What is a Business Improvement District?

  • BIDs allow businesses in a defined area to vote on additional services they want to invest in, to improve their trading environment
  • If a majority (both by number and by rateable value) approve the proposal, all ratepayers contribute through their business rates
  • Improvements may include extra security, environmental measures and promotion of the area The plan voted for has a lifespan of five years and further proposals have to be reaffirmed through a vote
  • More than 40 BIDs have now been established across England and Wales
  • BIDs are operated by not-for-profit partnership organisations.

Related topics Property law

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