Businesses in the areas of Stirchley, Bournville, Cotteridge, and Kings Norton are currently being asked to vote for or against the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID) in the area. If the BID is approved by the vote then every business will have a percentage “˜levy’ added onto their business rates which will go into the creation of a new company that is managed by a board of directors elected by businesses to spend on improvements and/or changes to the high street and local environment.
As a value driven company we have thought long and hard about the pros and cons of a BID being formed in the area and have discussed as a cooperative how we will vote. We feel it is right to let our customers know that we will vote against the formation of a BID, and explain briefly why.
Firstly it is right to acknowledge that a BID can certainly bring some material benefits to an area, but it is our firm belief that these material benefits can be achieved in the absence of a BID as well. The development in Stirchley High Street and Stirchley’s cultural life over the last five years is proof of this. Companies and organisations like Birmingham Bike Foundry, South Birmingham Food Coop, Stirchley Stores, Stirchley Market, Stirchley Wines and Spirits, Stirchley Happenings, Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum, Stirchley United Club, the Stirchley Baths committee, Stirchley Park, Love Stirchley, Super Stirchley, Loaf, Birmingham City Council’s Town Centre Manager, Kings Norton Farmers Market and many others have contributed to a vibrant cultural life and community atmosphere in the area. This grassroots regeneration is not dependent on a BID. It is possible that a BID in the area will actually hamper these grassroots activities through a top down approach. Of course this is dependent on the attitude of the BID committee and there could be a positive effect too, but the history of relationships between the Lifford Business Association and some of the organisations listed above does not give us hope.
Secondly, our opposition to the BID is an idealogical one. We believe that our high streets are public spaces and should remain so, particularly when they are located in residential neighbourhoods. A BID is a step in the direction of privatisation of our high streets. A BID subtly suggests that the businesses in the area have ownership over it, and can decide what improvements and changes they would like to make and have the right to carry those out. In our opinion a BID puts too much power in the hands of the businesses (and the company formed by the BID to manage changes), and takes that power away from residents and other high street users.
For these reasons Loaf will be voting No in the Lifford BID vote, and I hope our customers will support us in this decision.
If you’d like to see further positive changes in your area please be encouraged by the fun we’ve had in Stirchley in the last five years. Come and talk to any of the organisations listed above if you want to find out how we can continue to improve our high street without a BID. Take risks, talk to people, organise, and be the change!