Author: Cyril Richert
On Tuesday 19 September, The Means, appointed by the Council, presented the results of their feasibility study on the future of Clapham Junction town Centre. The company has been appointed by the Council to look into the different possibilities for the town centre business organisations to move to self funding. A Business Improvement District (business lead organisation funded by businesses) is the preferred option.
In November 2014 we reported that Wandsworth Council aimed at removing funding for the business organisations of each town centres. Initial schedule was set for April 2015, then moved to January 2017 and now this is likely to happen some time after next year local election, late 2018 or 2019.
The Means, a company appointed by the Council, achieved the first phase of the process, which is a global feasibility study across the borrow to explore the possibility for Clapham Junction to implement a BID (implemented in 253 locations within the UK). Each of the 5 town centres cost currently about £80-100k/year.
Through 106 questionnaires, they found that 44% of retailers consider that their business is stable and 37% that is improving, and 76% are optimistic for the future. Businesses would like to see more plants, greenery and bikes in the area. 66% think that they would benefit from a digital strategy for Clapham Junction. 51% of businesses agree (+13% strongly agree) with the idea of implementing a BID (13% disagree, 3% strongly disagree and 20% don’t know). Based on their experience, The Means recommend to set a contribution at 1.5% of the rate-able value of each business, which could bring £466k over 1 year and £2.3M over 5 years (a BID has a 5 year term). A threshold should be implemented (a rate-able value below £12k does not have to pay) along with an upper-cap (for big businesses such as Asda, Lidl or PCS)
Once a BID is agreed, ALL businesses must contribute (there is no choice to opt-out, even if they voted against the BID). In addition, small businesses below the threshold do not have the right to vote (based on the rule no money, no vote). It is important to keep in mind that in order to be decided, a BID vote must get both >50% of votes (each business has got 1 vote) and >50% of the aggregated rate-able values.
The board of the BID will not reflect the CJTCP as there is not enough businesses represented. However rules could be implemented to accept community groups or specific bodies. The BID map should include part of Lavender Hill, St John’s Hill, Northcode Road and Webbs Road but should exclude Queenstown road and Battersea Par Road which relates better to Nine Elms according to the study responses.
A formal vote took place during the meeting and the CJTCPB voted to support the BID. The council said that it will now have to go through a series of steps, including a Council formal decision (before or after the local elections in 2018) and a BID vote in the Town Centre later.
Two other BID projects have moved ahead in Wandsworth:
The Means met with CJAG in August to get the views of the community group on the possible change. we said that we would like to see community-interest groups to be involved in conversations with the BID and for the local authority to be represented on the BID board. According to The Means, a good example of this is the Brixton Urban Orchard where residents were consulted and can also continue to be part of the project by volunteering.