Nic Durston, Chief Executive of South Bank Employers’ Group and the South Bank BID, explores the challenges and developments that will be affecting South Bank and the communities within in 2017…
At New Year, South Bank was again the focus of national and global attention as it hosted another stunning display of fireworks. In addition to the pyrotechnics, this year’s show had voices, music and songs, many of which referenced London – its past, present and future. It embodied the Mayor’s ongoing campaign #LondonIsOpen – aimed at demonstrating that London is a city that, despite Brexit uncertainty, remains as keen as ever to trade internationally, to attract and retain talent and investment, to continually innovate – culturally, socially and economically, and to welcome visitors from all over the world. These ambitions and aspirations are supported by South Bank’s diverse community – its many businesses and employers, its universities, colleges and students, and all those that visit what is surely London’s most welcoming and dynamic neighbourhood.
But this isn’t a time to be complacent: 2017 will no doubt bring continued uncertainty as Brexit negotiations continue, and Sadiq and his team strive to secure the best economic and financial settlement for London – whether in terms of visa / passport requirements for workers, devolved powers, funding and investment for London’s current and future infrastructure needs, and to tackle some of the undoubted challenges that London continues to face – whether housing, air quality, transport, and equality of opportunity. Members and representatives of both South Bank Employers’ Group (SBEG) and South Bank Business Improvement District (BID) have been discussing many of these issues with Sadiq’s team, and in 2017 we’ll continue to ensure that the significance and importance of South Bank – economically and culturally – are known and understood, along with its specific needs and requirements as a place that continues to develop and grow.
At the end of 2016, the BID was heavily involved in the London-wide campaign against the Government’s proposals over the planned rises in business rates, through the 2017 Revaluation. Whilst the campaign successfully challenged elements of the Government’s proposals (resulting in some significant savings for South Bank and Waterloo businesses) we remain convinced that the present system of business rates represents an unfair tax on London’s business community, and we’ll continue to press for further changes so that businesses receive a better settlement in future. On Thursday 26 January, in conjunction with We Are Waterloo BID, we are holding a breakfast briefing on business rates. Please do book your place to find out more about the impact of the 2017 Revaluation, and what we plan to do next on this important issue.
South Bank’s continued growth – physically and culturally – will certainly define much of our collective activity in the coming year. With recent planning permissions given for key developments – including work on Waterloo International Terminal – we’ll be redoubling our focus on the effective coordination of construction activity, building on work already underway with Southbank Place. We will also be working with Transport for London, as it starts its consultation on the planned remodelling of the Waterloo roundabout as it’s vital that this project delivers for the neighbourhood. We are also very mindful of the continued need for the security and neighbourhood safety services that we deliver and support, and we want to ensure all that businesses and employers are aware of how they can access and benefit from these services – to this end, we’ll be hosting briefing and training sessions throughout the year, so do take advantage of these.
South Bank’s cultural and arts offer will continue to develop and grow, especially as we anticipate some major new developments and initiatives for the future – including the implementation of the winning submission for the The Illuminated River Competition and Lumiere, the four day light festival – in early 2018. In line with SBEG and the BID’s shared priorities, we continue to invest in all aspects of our promotional activity, including southbanklondon.com, our hugely successful visitor destination website, accessed by 80,000 people every month – and our social media audiences, now reaching over a quarter of a million users. With invaluable insight gained through specialist research done in 2016, we will be targeting key audiences to ensure that South Bank businesses realise the benefits of our marketing and promotional activities.
And finally, we are really excited about the imminent launch of the Star Card, our new Reward Programme, specifically developed for local employees, residents and students. In an innovative collaboration with We Are Waterloo BID, we’ll soon be announcing details of how those who work, live and study in South Bank and Waterloo can benefit from a wide and diverse range of offers, savings and exclusive opportunities.
In short – and as if there was any doubt… #SouthBankIsOpen!
Nic, and everyone at South Bank Employers’ Group and South Bank Business Improvement District
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