By News Reporters

Map of proposed Fitzrovia BID.
The proposed BID area where increased commercial activity threatens the character of Fitzrovia.

The Fitzrovia Partnership, a business group created by landowner and property developer Derwent London, has been allowed by Camden Council to ballot businesses over whether to part-privatise streets in Fitzrovia by creating a business improvement district (BID). If successful the BID would begin on 1 August 2012 for a five year term.

Community groups in Fitzrovia have for the last couple of years been concerned about the establishment of a BID and the damage it would do to the character of the area. Business improvement districts are set up to intensify business activity, increase footfall and inevitably drive up land values. Tenants and small businesses tend to be priced out in favour of higher paying occupants.

Camden Council made the announcement on its website today but gave no details about what streets would be affected. The website of the Fitzrovia Partnership also gave no details about the BID.

However, documents have been sent to businesses notifying them of the ballot which will take place between Tuesday 19 June and Friday 20 July 2012. Fitzrovia News received a copy of these documents after we requested them from Camden Council. The documents included the following explanation of the BID:

A Business Improvement District (BID) is an arrangement through which the business community can elect to generate additional funding to re-invest in the local area to improve the public realm, promote business and make the area more profitable for business. Under these arrangements, business ratepayers agree to contribute a small additional levy on their business rate bill to finance a BID. In order to go ahead with the renewal of the BID, agreement is needed from business ratepayers through a formal voting process, which is required to be conducted by the Returning Officer for Elections for the London Borough of Camden.

A spokesperson for The Fitzrovia Partnership told Fitzrovia News that the BID levy would be 1 percent of rateable value. This would mean that businesses on the Camden side of Fitzrovia with a ratebable value of £100,000 and over would pay a levy of 1 percent of their rateable value on top their existing business rates (a business with a rateable value of £100,000 would pay an extra £1,000 on their business rates bill).

Under legislation the BID company (The Fitzrovia Partnership in this case) has to consult with those businesses that would potentially become liable for the levy. The Fitzrovia Partnership told Fitzrovia News that they have already consulted with businesses who would be potentially liable to pay the levy; yet there has been no public announcement of a potential BID from The Fitzrovia Partnership. Likewise Camden Council had not mentioned the BID until today (save for a paragraph on their business rates page).

Under BID regulations it is not necessary to consult smaller businesses or residents. When BIDs are created in areas dominated by businesses of a similar size and where there are no residents living the decision to approve a BID or not becomes a simple case of a democratic vote. But in mixed-use areas like Fitzrovia where there are thousands of residents and smaller businesses these are excluded from the consultation process and about environmental changes that affect them. Critics of BIDs point out this democratic deficit.

For several years now Fitzrovia has been experiencing increasing commercial pressure with an increase in commercial development, and restaurant and licensing applications.

While Derwent London have set up The Fitzrovia Partnership, as a land owner they are not liable to pay towards the BID. Derwent would gain by driving up the value of their properties in Fitzrovia. The company has over 1.5 million square feet of property here and they have said in the past that they have put their own money into the Fitzrovia Partnership.

Their tenants, however, are liable to pay. But many of Derwent’s tenants are offices and it is difficult to see what advantage these would gain from a being in a business improvement district. Those businesses which have the most to gain are those larger retail and restaurant premises which would benefit from higher levels of footfall.

There are established BIDs in Bloomsbury, St Giles and Holborn (InMidtown) and in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street (New West End Company).

The streets concerned in Fitzrovia are:

Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy Square, Charlotte Street, Conway Street, Cleveland Street, Euston Road South side (odd numbers) numbers 293 (Coral) to 373 (Volvo). Warren Street, Maple Street, Howland Street, Tottenham Street, Goodge Street – Goodge Street North side (even numbers) up to 64 (Flight Centre). Goodge Street South side (odd numbers) to 53 (Vida e Caffe). Percy Street, Stephen Street, Bayley Street, Store Street, Tottenham Court Road – Tottenham Court Road East must not include numbers 237 (Pret a Manger) to 279 (Corinthian House). Tottenham Court Road West not numbers 1 (Burger King) to 5 (Phones for U). Whitfield Street.

The above list above only applies to the Camden part of the streets. List of Streets.

Documents sent out to businesses in BID area: BID map; Letter; Notice.

British Bids and Against Business Improvement Districts.