By Daniel Hunter

Property owners could get a greater role in revitalising their high streets under plans announced by Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk.

The minister visited London’s West End to see an example of how business improvement district partnership can bring regeneration to an area.

Business improvement districts bring local companies together to develop a vision for their area, pool funds and deliver projects to improve town centre safety, support local traders, establish parking initiatives and help to spruce up the high street.

Current rules only allow businesses to formally pay into and vote in a business improvement district. But ministers want to see how property owners can also be added to this equation, to involve more local people, increase funding and boost support to regeneration projects.

The proposals outlined today could offer a shot in the arm to business improvement districts and high streets. While local businesses may be enthused and engaged about breathing new life into their town centres, some may have seen their plans hampered by the lack of involvement of the building owners. Reforming the scheme would enable property owners themselves to have a direct say and play an active part in regenerating trading areas.

Today’s announcement is part of wider efforts to boost this important scheme. Mr Prisk has also announced a £500,000 loan fund to set up more business improvement districts, and will be scrapping regulations to ensure these partnerships can be set up within a business area - rather than restricted by administrative boundaries.

Local Growth Minister Mark Prisk said: "The government is creating the right environment for high streets to thrive. But we’ve also seen how, again and again, a business improvement district can make a real difference, bringing the key players together to make the high street an attractive and pleasant place to visit.

"That’s why I’m announcing plans that would bring landlords into the mix, so that everyone with a stake in our high streets has a chance to participate."

David Shaw, Head of the Regent Street Porfolio, The Crown Estate, said: "Business improvement district companies like the New West End Company and Heart of London Business Alliance play an important role in the continuing success of the West End which attracts visitors and investors from around the globe.

"We have played an active role in supporting both New West End Company and Heart of London Business Alliance since their inception and welcome any further opportunities for property owners to work alongside businesses to determine a prosperous future for the areas in which they invest."

Business improvement districts are a tried and tested approach, used in towns and cities across the world, to fund improvements in local trading areas. Indeed, 1 of the key recommendations in Mary Portas’s review was to exploit the real potential that business improvement districts have to revitalise high streets and make a real difference to local areas.

Over 150 business improvement districts are already operating across the UK. The New West End Company is 1 of the best known and they have worked to transform the look and feel of London’s West End over the last 10 years. And the Love Loughborough Partnership has introduced a “trial a trade” scheme for new businesses, a loyalty card scheme for students and free parking on Sundays.

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