Academy Leaders Mo Aswat FIPM (left) and Sharon Scott MIPM speaking at the event in Belfast


Northern Ireland was the last major jurisdiction in the British Isles to introduce BIDs (Business Improvement District) legislation, but thanks to support from the (former) Department for Social Development, the Northern Ireland BIDs Academy has supported the establishment of five BIDs in 2016 and one more will go to ballot this year. The success of this initiative was celebrated in Belfast on Wednesday 8th June when local authority and business leaders from across the province came to hear from BIDs Academy leaders Mo Aswat FIPM of the Mosaic Partnership and Sharon Scott MIPM of Place Solutions. Several of the successful BID partnerships also spoke at the event and the keynote was delivered by IPM Director Simon Quin.

The event heard about some of the particular challenges BIDs faced in Northern Ireland, notably a minimum turnout requirement of 25%, introducing the concept during a period of local government reorganisation which saw 26 Councils replaced by just 11, national government reorganisation which saw new combined departments, and the novelty of the suggested approach in a society which is very public sector dominated. Despite this, the results of the BID ballots showed remarkable enthusiasm.

The first area to ballot was Ballymena, which has long had a town centre partnership and which has worked on several projects with IPM. Ballymena achieved an 84% by number and 88% by rateable value approval, numbers which were equalled or beaten by the votes in Belfast City, Belfast Cathedral Quarter and Newry. Stabane, the last of the five to vote, achieved the highest 'yes' vote to date in the United Kingdom, with 95% by number and 98% by rateable value on a two thirds turnout.

Simon Quin congratulated all involved in achieving the implementation of BIDs in Northern Ireland and welcomed how well they have been received. He spoke about the role of BIDs in the wider context of place management, drawing attention to the rapid changes now affecting town and city centres. He challenged the new BIDs to ensure that the strategic future of their places was also being addressed whilst the BIDs were achieving their more operational goals. He welcomed the inclusion of funding for innovation in the Ballymena BID prospectus to allow for a response to changes that may occur over the five year life of the BID.

In Northern Ireland, a BID can occur where a group of interested businesses get together with their local authority to consider what improvements are needed in their area over and above statutory provision. They then put together a plan, cost it, and decide on an amount of levy that each business must pay over a 5-year period to fund the improvements. The plan is then put out for ballot across all businesses included in the BID area. If the ballot is successful, the BID is implemented, and all businesses in the area must pay. Some 200 or more now exist in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland as well as others in North America, where they originated, continental Europe, South Africa and elsewhere.