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My BID's better than yours

BIDs concept
By Alex Reid
09 June 2023
Placemaking & Regeneration
city of london

Sitting on the front row of a recent event focused on BIDs – Business Improvement Districts for the uninitiated - and what they can deliver, at times I thought this must be what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a new business presentation.
Slick PowerPoints, countless placemaking case studies, constant talk of “activating” street scenes, delivered with the gusto of a Presidential hopeful.
For someone who’s spent more than a decade working in placemaking and regeneration, I lapped it up, convinced that all corners of London will soon thrum with economic and social activity in a green utopia where foliage cascades from office buildings and central squares.
To be fair to the speakers, selling the dream is at the heart of a BID – often via sheer showmanship and an ability to paint a vision of your area in exciting new ways, you can carry more people on the journey with you.
Though, much like a new business pitch, what most people are really interested in is what’s behind the brochure, and what the results would actually look like.
For all the brilliant and creative thinking on display that evening, it required one region – Croydon – to ultimately remind the audience that BIDs don’t count for much without a less glamorous requirement – for streets to be clean and safe. Without that, it’s unlikely that people will flock to your latest art installation or pop-up light show.
Much of London falls under a BID region, and some of the greatest transformations are taking place because of them. Their power of course is in their numbers; the more businesses in the area that they represent, the greater their voice for lobbying and change.
By chance, this week the City of London Corporation kicked off its public engagement phase on its main planning and transport development schemes, all of which could have a transformational effect on the Square Mile.
Feeding into this traditional consultation will be many BIDs, all with their own shiny, exciting ideas for how to redefine what’s traditionally been a fairly drab commercial district.
It will be interesting to see whose BIDs come out on top, and ultimately, what’s delivered in the future because of them. Whilst I’m less certain of that outcome, I have no doubt that without the passionate people that lead these BIDs, often for many years, the cultural tapestry of this great city would be far worse off.