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Pool of London considers Business Improvement District

The money runs out for the Pool of London Partnership in three years' time, and the regeneration body is considering ways of ensuring that the pace of change is maintained.

The PLP was set up in 1996 to aid the regeneration of the area between London Bridge and Butler's Wharf on the south side of the Thames and the equivalent area across the river. By 2007 it will have secured more than 31 million government funding and 100 million in other contributions. Much of the PLP's work involves bringing together local authorities, local representatives, the private sector and government agencies to identify where local environmental improvements need to be made.

Before winding up operations, the PLP is working to develop a forward strategy to ensure that the momentum of change is not lost.

Projects funded by the PLP include improvements to Tooley Street, St John's Churchyard and Morgan's Lane, as well as the Bankside and Pool of London community wardens scheme.

"The area has changed significantly in the last decade" says PLP director Linda Houston. "A more welcoming environment has been created for people coming in to work, do business, shop and enjoy leisure time. It ‘s so important that recent improvements are not allowed to deteriorate and that future developments address local concerns."

With research showing that local business are keen to see further improvements, many of which cannot realistically be funded exclusively with public money, a Business Improvement District is one of the options under consideration.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are a way for the business community to have more control over how services and projects are managed in their local area. This could be funded by a one per cent supplement to the business rates. The money is then ring-fenced for that specific area. Businesses only invest in services that are additional to those provided by the local authority and which add to the appeal of an area for customers and staff, such as 'greening' with extra trees or areas of planting, or which draw people in, such as publicity and events.

Consultation will take place with businesses and employees operating on the south side of the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge over the coming months to identify whether a BID is a viable option for their area.

Pilot BID schemes are operating in many parts of central London, including Bankside (Better Bankside) and Waterloo (Circle Waterloo). When the passage of the BID Regulations through Parliament is complete, Bankside is expected to be one of the first areas in the country to hold a ballot of rate-paying businesses to decide whether to establish a full-scale BID funded by a business levy.

Ms Houston added: "It is part of our mission to ensure that the future of the Pool is secure and that a plan is in place for sustainable on-going development. How that will take place is still to be decided but the PLP will keep asking questions and listening until a way forward becomes clear."

Not everyone is convinced about the merits of BIDs: "It is definitely worth considering if you can improve your area through a joint effort and this should not be dismissed out of hand," Bill Sharp, licensee of the Kings Arms in London Bridge and representative of the Guild of Master Victuallers, told trade paper The Publican recently. "But you have to look and see if it is just another way of getting money out of a business."

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