Community Improvement Districts: A Discussion Paper

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The Power to Change report Take Back the High Street set out the case for the greater involvement of communities in the oversight and revitalisation of their high streets.

This view was reinforced by the 2020 Bill Grimsey report Build Back Better, in which the transfer of power to the community was a key pillar. The High Streets Task Force has also launched since the Power to Change report was published and stresses the central role of the community in high street recovery. Our interest is in exploring how the ambition of a greater community role in high street recovery can be realised.

For example, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have proven successful in involving businesses in the development of local economies, addressing a previous influence gap – but there is no parallel system for residents to participate, other than via indirect means with their local councillor or planning system. This leaves those who have ideas about how to shape their places without a strong voice.

This paper aims therefore to explore the emerging concept of Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), defined as bodies which provide opportunities for community stakeholders to participate in operational and strategic decision-making for their neighbourhoods. This paper considers the various models, contexts and risk factors to inform discussion of CIDs.

The paper examines the context and history of the concept of community participation and CIDs, the policy landscape and the mechanisms that support participation. Terms are defined and the paper considers various potential models for CIDs using existing and new structures.