Briefing on the Culture Mile Business Improvement District
David Wilcox, EC1 Echo columnist.

In a blog post about Culture Mile BID proposals: Latest business improvement plans could make City neighbourhoods better for all. If …  I said:

Establishment of the City’s latest BID could bring benefits to residents – but only with appropriate governance and community engagement.

I’ve copied the blog post below, and have now developed briefing pages about the key issues. 

Quick start on briefing pages

… or jump to below the blog post for more detail about the pages on this site.

Blog post 1

Businesses in the City’s cultural district and main residential area will next year be asked to help support and lead on projects including greening, easier walking and cycling, and reduction in air pollution.

Funding of £1,850,000 in the first year will come from a levy on businesses in the area, together with voluntary income and sponsorship, if there is agreement through a ballot to establish the Culture Mile Business Improvement District. There are already four other BIDs in the City.
Detailed proposals for the Culture Mile BID have now been circulated by regeneration specialists Primera following consultation with businesses and major organisations. The proposals have gone to ward councillors and residents’ organisation for the Barbican and Golden Lane Estate, with encouragement to comment and share more widely. I have uploaded proposals here.

The priorities are:
  • Developing a sustainable environment
  • Working together to build a better connected business community
  • Harnessing the area’s culture to build a vibrant streetscape
  • Building the area into a major destination for visitors and to retain and attract investment

Apart from the specific project proposals, I think that that BID strategy is particularly important for several reasons.
  • The strategy aims to bring together different programmes that affect business, residents and visitors, while giving business the lead.
  • There is so far no other strategy for the area covering these issues. At a recent City Court meeting policy chief Chris Hayward agreed with councillor Mark Bostock that one was needed, but not in advance of decisions about London Wall West. See video clip here.

I live in the area, and think that the document raises three key issues

First, the nature of the proposals.
Many of the proposals make sense to me, and I can see other residents broadly agreeing subject to concerns about balancing the plans for vibrancy and visitor attraction with avoidance of the sort of night-time disturbance that this can bring if not well-managed. But see below for the potential devil in the detail …
The second point is governance: who makes decisions about the area. While the other four City BID are in business mainly areas, the Culture Mile BID covers the City’s major residential area. Rather than an entirely business-led approach, why not establish a Community Improvement District, of which there already two in London? The Power to Change organisation produced an excellent discussion paper on CIDs in 2020, exploring how residents can be partners in a BID.

The third point is engagement. There has so far been little resident input to the strategy, and there are no evident mechanisms in place to achieve more. While Barbican and Golden Lane estates do have associations, meetings and online communities, other residents in the area are not members of formal organisations.