Financing streets

Andrew Hicks Director of Estates, Covent Garden, Capital & Counties Properties PLC says in STREETSCAPES:

Covent Garden was designed to bring people together. We continue that legacy with innovative art installations, events and an exciting combination of shops, restaurants and amenities. By maintaining our streetscapes with painstaking attention to detail, we create one of the world’s best places to live, work and visit.

Ruth Duston Chief Executive, Northbank Business Improvement District says:

From small beginnings some twenty years ago the Business Improvement District concept has taken hold. Through it local businesses engage and contribute directly to the promotion, security and vitality of their locality. The number of BIDs is growing: evidence that businesses are convinced of their financial value.

Having established that it is possible to create attractive streets that respond to their context, provide efficient and safe movement of traffic, and accommodate the increasing demands of a modern society, we now deal with the practicalities of funding. Specifically, who pays and who gets things done?


Each year more than £1,500m is spent in the UK on maintaining and improving the road network. The projects range from filling in the smallest pothole to a substantial multi-million-pound scheme, and are funded by the public sector, by the private sector or jointly, by both. Funding for new or improved streets normally comes from public funds gathered through general taxation. These funds are allocated from central government to local highway authorities, and other councils and agencies. Though funding is remarkably complex in structure, there seems to be no trend towards simplification, so anyone interested in influencing decision making regarding public funding needs to be aware of the systems in place at a particular location.

There are also systems to provide supplementary or partial funding as  a private finance contribution. These funds may be paid by businesses as part of planning gain agreements such as Section 106 agreements and the Community Infrastructure Levy associated with new building developments. Funds may also be provided by individual local organisations and companies, or through umbrella organisations such as Business Improvement Districts. Local businesses in a BID may agree collectively to contribute money to improvements in their locality.

Landowners of some large urban estates act in a similar way to the eighteenth and nineteenth century estate developers. They appreciate the long-term as well as the short-term commercial advantages of good street design and are content to regard it as an essential investment.

Parallel to funding issues is the sheer complexity of getting things done. There are certainly ways in which the many different disciplines and bureaucracies involved can be brought together to achieve collective goals.

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