Norwich BID hosted a city conversation seminar looking at the future of the city last week. This event epitomised what is meant by place leadership, which was identified as a key requirement for the sustainability of town and city centres in reports published by government late last year from Sir John Timpson and the Institute of Place Management.

The event was opened by Stefan Gurney, Executive Director, Norwich BID and contributors included:

  • Laura McGillivary, Chief Executive, Norwich City Council
  • Tom McCabe, Head of Paid Service and Executive Directors, Norfolk County Council
  • Linn Clabburn, Programme Director, New Anglia LEP
  • Chris Sargisson, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce
  • David Parfrey, Executive Chair , Norwich Research Park
  • Andrew Dernie, Chair, Norwich BID
  • Zoe Ward, Business and Projects Director, Norwich City Football Club

Bringing these place leaders together, representing business interests, the community and the public sector to discuss various aspects of the future of the city and to explain how each would work together, with an audience of other business leaders, reflects the transparency and accountability of effective place leadership in the city. Norwich is a city that is doing well. As the UK's first UNESCO City of Literature and first Sharing City, it is making its mark. It has low levels of retail vacancy and steady footfall and was classed as a 'strong city centre' in a recent Centre for Cities report. Norwich BID extended its area at its last ballot and now generates about £1 million a year. As Executive Director, Stefan Gurney plays a significant role in supporting BIDs nationally through his work with The BID Foundation and ATCM. 

The event explored how different organisations would work together to support the future of Norwich. Based on its track record, the city now has high standards and big aspirations. One recent outstanding success was profiled at the event with the 2019 RIBA Sterling Prize winning housing development at Goldsmith Street in Norwich, described as a 'modern masterpiece' by the judges. Architect Mikhail Riches and client Andrew Turnbull of Norwich City Council talked through the scheme, how it was imagined and what it means for the city and the people who live in it. It is clear that Norwich aimed high with this scheme and this set the tone for the conversations on the day.

The importance of the footfball club and its changing fortunes was explored, and key amongst the points raised was the worldwide exposure for the city by having a team in the Premier League. Clips from a US television programme showcasing the city based around its football team's progress were impressive.

The other main topic of the day was the future of the city centre. Institute Co-Chair Simon Quin was the keynote speaker in this session, exploring the changing nature of activity and investment in town and city centres and looking at what the future might hold. Simon talked of retail change, changing consumer behaviour, the impact of technology and data and what this could mean for cities such as Norwich. A panel session followed with national contributions from Jon Burnett of Springboard, Ojay McDonald of ATCM, and Simon alongside local input.

The event was attended by business and community interests from across the city who made great contributions, sometimes with challenging questions for the city leaders. Norwich is a well established and recently expanded BID, but the presence of so many local leaders from across all sectors was a real signal of the opportunity BIDs present for business engagement in the future of our cities and really demonstrates effective local place leadership. It is a great example for others to look at.

The event also saw the launch of a new fesival for Norwich which will take place next February - Love Light Norwich.

Photos - courtesy of Norwich BID