In announcing the BID proposal David Whittleton, chairman of The Fitzrovia Partnership and Group Chief Operating Officer of Arup said: “The creation of a business improvement district presents an opportunity for the Fitzrovia Partnership to take an increasingly important role in Fitzrovia — a collective voice and sustainable resource to help facilitate competitive advantage and effective partnership working between business, the public authorities and the local community.”
Voluntary organisations working to protect residents interests in Fitzrovia fear they will be marginalised by such a large business group at a time when their own income has been cut and when there are a large number of commercial building developments taking place with more being proposed. Several buildings are being lined up for demolition and the Saatchi Block in Charlotte Street is due to be part demolished and rebuilt by developer Derwent London next year.
The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association a registered charity providing housing and welfare advice and community development projects had most of its annual grant cut by Camden Council at the start of this year due to central government cuts. The Charlotte Street Association which responds to the bulk of planning and licensing applications in the Camden part of Fitzrovia receives no funding and relies on the facilities provided by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association.
Residents now fear The Fitzrovia Partnership will use its financial muscle to shape Fitzrovia with its own agenda. Residents and voluntary groups are already under pressure both from reduced funding and from the increasing number of planning and licensing applications that are being submitted in the neighbourhood.
The Fitzrovia Partnership’s BID document which it is hoping will be endorsed by a ballot of businesses in July proposes a number of objectives to realise a better trading environment. These include maximising the opportunity of London 2012, reducing business running costs, promoting Tottenham Court Road for shopping and Charlotte Street for eating, providing security, and working with Camden Council to establish a business-led view on planning, development and environmental issues.
According to the BID proposal the levy would net over £1m per annum, but an additional £500,000 could be gained through public funding, commercial income and property contributions. Smaller businesses and landowners would be asked to make voluntary contributions towards the BID.
By contrast the income of the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association was £113,000 for the year ending 2011, with most of this money being spent on providing housing and welfare advice to Fitzrovia’s thousands of residents and tackling social isolation for the elderly. Responding to planning and licensing applications is mostly un-funded. Volunteers from other tenants and residents groups also respond to planning and licensing.
It is also believed that the BID would seek to obtain section 106 money and CIL money for specific environmental improvements which would benefit the trading environment. Section 106 money and the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is created from planning gain from new developments and a number of interests compete for a share of this.
Although the BID would be confined to certain streets in the Camden part of Fitzrovia, The Fitzrovia Partnership have stated they will look to work across the border into Westminster.