Finance: Will Godiva take off?
The management of Coventry city centre is being handed over to a private company in a project named after the place's most famous daughter. Other towns will be casting an eye on its success, says Paul Gosling
Wednesday 19 February 1997
The Coventry City Centre Management Company will, from April, take over from the council a pounds 4m budget to run the commercial heart of the city. It will award the contracts and monitor the performance of street cleaning, decide the level of closed-circuit television surveillance, manage the car parks and set parking fees, organise special events to attract shoppers and tourists, run campaigns to promote the city and attract inward investment, and be consulted on all planning applications in the city centre area.
But this is no straightforward privatisation of civic responsibilities. The company is a joint venture between the city's Labour-controlled council and some of its leading businesses, including Boots, the Prudential and Land Securities, which owns much of the property in the centre. Other directors include a vicar, representatives of the city's university and its training and enterprise council, and just one councillor and one officer from Coventry City Council.
Chairman of the company is Martin Ritchley, chief executive of the Coventry Building Society. Mr Ritchley says: "We are bringing together all the interest groups in an environment where you can make things happen. The private sector will be taking decisions and responsibilities for how the budgets will be spent, and this must be a good way forward. It will have influence over policies such as parking, safety and cleansing, instead of just being critical from the outside."
Coventry City Council expects the company to be more effective in attracting private capital into renovating the city's shopping area, which was mostly rebuilt in the Fifties and Sixties and is now badly showing its age. Commercial interests on the board have committed themselves to raising an extra pounds 500,000 over the next year for improvements to the existing city centre.
What the city desperately needs, though, is major investment to see off out-of-town developments such as the nearby Merry Hill centre at Dudley. The company has bid for pounds 2m from the European Union, but the key to progress is for the new company to lead a private finance initiative to rebuild the central shopping area.
Mr Ritchley believes that additional investment has to be earned by the new company. "In the longer term there may be extra money, but the most important priority is to prove to residents and businesses that this represents real progress to make the city better, and then to build investment. The companies represented on the board will be bringing in experience from elsewhere, and I hope they will be able to influence investment decisions from outside the city."
Some Coventry residents have criticised the proposal as an abandonment of the council's responsibilities, but Councillor Nick Nolan, chair of the authority's economic development committee, says it has not been controversial within the council. "There are sceptics, but getting it through the Labour group really wasn't difficult," he recalls.
Mr Nolan says it is important for commerce to commit itself to improving the city's environment. "We have been letting the private sector get out of its civic responsibilities for years, and it is about time we ended that. It is the growth of quangos that has made councils say that we can't allow these people to go off at tangents, but get them into what is important."
The Coventry project, called Godiva after the city's most famous daughter, builds on what has become a consensus among major cities that the private sector needs to be brought into planning and managing commercial centres. Many cities have now appointed town centre managers, who are responsible for liaison with store owners and for ensuring that councils work in co- operation with retailers to compete more effectively with out-of-town shopping areas.
Alan Tallentire, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management, says that he expects several other major local authorities to follow Coventry's example, with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast all looking closely at how it operates. "It is based on business improvement districts in the United States," he says, pointing out that this has had a major positive impact in many downtown areas there.
"It is about pulling investment strategies together where the private sector can see a reward cycle from which they can increase profitability. For the public sector it can help to prioritise economic development programmes."
Coventry is, in effect, acting as a pilot scheme for the future management of city centres, but the timing has its ironies. Just as the Labour Party has its best chance of government for years, so its own councils are moving much closer to the style urged on them by Margaret Thatcher and her former environment secretary, the late Nicholas Ridley. The ideas of Baroness Thatcher and Lord Ridley clearly had their own momentum, just a rather slower one than they had hopedn
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 24-28 November
You'll need £220,000 for a minimum wage in your retirement
Simon Read: There may be trouble ahead for cohabiting couples who don’t make a will
Money Insider: Would £150 make you switch banks?
Bargain Hunter: Find the deals that have real value beneath the Black Friday hype
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
David Cameron sets out immigration reforms: We should distrust Ukip and their 'snake-oil of simple solutions'
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
iJobs Money & Business
Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...
£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...
£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...
£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens