European fund to improve town centre policy

Norther Quarter, Manchester
By Mikey from Wythenshawe, Manchester, UK – High Street, Manchester, CC BY 2.0,

Manchester is one of five European regions set to benefit from a new European fund designed to help regional and local governments to develop and deliver better town centre policy.

The Institute of Place Management (IPM) at Manchester Metropolitan University will utilise part of a £1.5 million grant from the European funding body Interreg, to investigate how companies, councils and other local groups can work together more effectively to improve their town centres.  One of the major outcomes of the work will be a nationwide audit of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and their achievements.

Introduced by the Government in 2003, BIDs see retailers and other businesses pay an additional levy to develop projects benefitting high streets and other local areas across the country. The IPM estimates that these place management partnerships contributed approximately £110 million to their local economies in 2017.

The new funding will help local policy makers across the Greater Manchester region evaluate the contribution of these collaborative groups, including BIDs, in town centre regeneration, and make sure that plans and strategies encourage the development of effective local partnerships.

Canal Street, Manchester
By Parrot of Doom – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Working alongside Manchester City Council, the IPM has obtained the funding as part of Interreg’s Area Based Collaborative Enterprise in Cities (ABCitiEs) project.

The project aims to investigate economic and other impacts of commercial and social entrepreneurs working together in Amsterdam, Athens, Manchester, Vilnius (Lithuania) and the Varazdin-Čakovec agglomeration (Croatia).

Professor Cathy Parker, Professor of Marketing and Retail Enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan and Chair of the IPM, said: “The new ABCitiEs funding will allow us to work at a national level and measure the impact of around 300 BIDs in the UK. These type of local partnerships are often overlooked in regeneration strategies, so we need to understand more about what they do and how they operate.”

“This is fantastic news for Manchester as it will allow us to work with our partners to consider how policies such as the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and districts’ Local Plans, can introduce and support place partnerships as a missing piece of the jigsaw. All our research shows how effective these local groups can be in transforming town centres – it’s not just about the big developers and it certainly isn’t about multiple retailers anymore.”

In addition to Manchester City Council, the IPM will be working alongside long-term collaborators at the University of Applied Sciences Amsterdam and the City of Amsterdam, as well as universities and municipal authorities in Athens, Greece and Slovakia to ensure the funding is being used in the most effective way.