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The next Prime Minister must prioritise investment and innovation in town and city centres if they are to remain ‘places for everyone’, according to a new report issued by some of the UK’s leading Business Improvement Districts.

Places for Everyone – described as a Manifesto for Towns and Cities – contains 22 recommendations across 10 themes and has been produced by the industry group, The BID Foundation. The Manifesto puts forward proposals to ensure that urban centres ‘provide economic opportunities, places to meet and share experiences, high quality public services and amenities, as well as beacons for international tourism’. 

Wide-ranging recommendations

Launched in Birmingham on 6th June to a private audience of BID leaders and placemakers, including the new Mayor of the West Midlands, Richard Parker, the Manifesto condenses insights from BIDs which, over the 20 years since their inception, have invested over £1billion in towns and cities.

The wide-ranging recommendations to help create and maintain ‘places for everyone’ include:

  • Reform of the business rates system to create a fairer economic landscape for high street businesses
  • A proposed £250m national opportunity fund to support towns, cities and their businesses on the road to net zero by funding new technologies and working practices
  • A focus on local partnership working to tackle crime; bringing together the police, local government and a range of local organisations to share data and design more effective approaches
  • New legislation to protect existing urban green spaces, alongside clearer processes for businesses wishing to use pavement spaces to offer al-fresco dining and seating
  • Renewing the commitment to local funding for regeneration and placemaking through continuation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (£700m in 2023/24)
  • Appointment of a Minister for BIDs, to build on the success of Business Improvement Districts and their investment in place-based growth since 2004.

Shaped by UK core cities

These recommendations, alongside 16 others, have been shaped by The BID Foundation’s Working Groups which feature BID leaders from London, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol and a number of smaller towns and cities. Together, members of The BID Foundation represent thousands of businesses across retail, hospitality, leisure and commercial sectors, which all contribute to local work delivered by each BID.

Speaking about the new ‘Places for Everyone’ Manifesto, BID Foundation Co-Chair and Chief Executive of Colmore Business District, Michele Wilby, said:

“The new Manifesto is a strong statement in the middle of this general election campaign. We must think about people’s experience of the towns and cities where they work and live, and ensure every place has a compelling offer for its residents and visitors.”

“This is so important because economic growth alone won’t transform the UK if it’s not felt through people’s everyday. Bustling streets with new businesses appearing, resilient infrastructure ready for the net zero transition, inviting public realm where people feel safe to walk and meet friends; these are all expectations that sadly are rarely met by places on a consistent basis. Without a focus on place, we won’t change people’s experience.” 

BID Foundation Co-Chair and Chief Executive of Team London Bridge, Nadia Broccardo, said:

“BIDs are proven, representative and responsive. Over 20 years they’ve been at the coalface of our town and city centres and that’s why the recommendations in this Manifesto carry so much weight; having been shaped by people who are passionate about our business communities and the ecosystems that depend on our local economies. In recent years, our businesses leaders and owners have had to show great courage to remain solvent and retain employees, and now we need policy makers to be just as brave and back our businesses.”

Matthew Davis FIPM, Director of the Institute of Place Management based at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“The BIDs that have contributed to this new report have done a fantastic job, not just in chanelling their on-the-ground experience but in setting out a Manifesto that is practical and achievable.”

“By July 4th we’ll all know the scale of the challenge in front of us, particularly on issues like housing and health and social care. It’s a context that means we can’t simply reach for billions of pounds of funding to transform every high street in the UK. We need to work carefully in partnership, make the most of our shared expertise and resources, and that’s what this report describes – with a number of smaller funding pots and policy interventions to encourage local regeneration that will be highly visible to the millions that live and work in our towns and cities.”

20 Years of Business Improvement Districts

The BID Foundation is working throughout 2024 to celebrate and highlight the achievements of Business Improvement Districts since their inception. The final set of recommendations in the Manifesto sets out the sector’s desire to work even more closely with local and national government to achieve local growth and pride in place.

Places for Everyone: A Manifesto for Towns and Cities is available to download now.

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