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Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 18:00 GMT
UK aims to beat High Street blues
Liverpool
Liverpool is among the bigger cities trialling the scheme
The UK Government is importing American-style urban development policies in an attempt to save the High Street from extinction.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which oversees local government issues, unveiled 22 towns, cities and regions that will take part in a pilot version of the so-called Business Improvement District (BID) scheme.

BIDs aim to replicate the dramatic renewal of some US city centre districts - including Times Square in New York and downtown Philadelphia - by involving local businesses in joint schemes to improve amenities.

If successful, the pilot schemes could be followed by legislation on BIDs, which will replace the haphazard city centre policies currently in force.

Britain's High Streets have suffered in recent years, mainly from the loss of retail business to out-of-town shopping centres.

Great and small

The 22 regions selected for BID pilots aim to represent a cross-section of England and Wales.

Nick Raynsford
Mr Raynsford believes the Americans have the answer
Some - Birmingham and Liverpool, for example - are big cities with vibrant but run-down central shopping areas.

Four of the pilots are in London, including the New West End Company, which represents Oxford, Regent and Bond Street retailers.

Others are small market towns such as Keswick in Cumbria and Brandon in Suffolk, where central retailers are hit by competition from superstores.

Happier shoppers

Some 1,200 BIDs are already in operation in the US, with what Mr Raynsford contends is great success.

Times Square
Times Square has regained its sparkle
By pooling resources from retailers, property developers and other local firms, US BIDs together raise some $1bn a year to invest in the retail environment.

How the money is spent depends on the particular circumstances of the BID, but most focus on litter collection, improvements to parking, installation of closed-circuit TV cameras to help fight street crime.

Among the most successful are some of the 40 BIDs in New York, including the renovation of Times Square, until recently a notorious red-light district.

All for one...

Schemes somewhat like BIDs are already in operation in certain places, where retailers club together to lobby the authorities or invest in infrastructure.

But the government insists that the new programme is a step forward, going some way to coordinating policy nationwide.

Unlike the current cooperative arrangements, BIDs will be all-inclusive, funded by a levy on the business rates of all firms in an area.

This, its proponents argue, will avoid the current problem of companies benefiting from amenity improvements without contributing financially.


Pilot regions

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