The introduction of BIDs to Spain looks a step closer.

A full day conference on Friday March 15th in Pamplona examined the latest work to introduce BIDs in Spain. Hosted by the Government of Navarre, which is looking to be the region to pioneer the introduction of BIDs, the conference heard from Institute of Place Management members Helena Villarejo Galende and Maria Luisa Esteve Pardo who have been working with the Government of Navarre to draft legislation to permit BIDs (or Áreas de Promoción Económica as they may be called). The legislation was outlined for the audience of business leaders, public sector representatives and place management groups and at the same time published for public consultation.

Spain is one of many countries where town and city centres are seeing challenges from out of town and online shopping. Retail vacancy has increased despite the fact that over the last twenty years there has been a significant growth in the number of town centre management (centros comerciales urbanos (CCU) or centros comerciales abiertos (CCA)) partnerships, of which there are now some 400 across the country. The voluntary nature of these partnerships, their low level of funding and concerns about 'free-riders' (many businesses benefitting but not all contributing) has led to interest in BIDs in Spain. Work on this has been done for many years. It has involved different approaches in various regions of Spain but this has been co-ordinated by La Asociación Española para la Gerencia de los Centros Urbanos (AGECU).

The conference on Friday heard of the consideration of BIDs elsewhere in the world and how legislation that enabled BIDs to operate in countries with a Common Law system needed to be adapted for Spain's Civil Law system. Helena Villarejo and Maria Luisa Esteve are Professors of Law at the Universities of Valladolid and Girona respectively.

As well as introducing the draft legislation, the conference also heard about the development and role of BIDs elsewhere. Sebastian Binger from Otto-Wulff BID in Hamburg spoke about the way BIDs operated in the city and some of the day to day issues. Alvaro Costela Sanchez, the Head of Marketing at Liverpool BIDs, described the structure and work of the two BIDs and what the outcome of this was. He also used examples from other UK BIDs to illustrate the variety of activities and scale of BIDs. Simon Quin represented The BID Foundation and talked of the development of BIDs in the UK using evidence from the soon to be published state of the art research undertaken by the Institute. Four of the five morning speakers were members of the Institute of Place Management.

During the afternoon session, the conference heard about initiatives to introduce BIDs in other parts of Spain, including Madrid, Calalonia, and the Basque region and why BIDs would make a difference in Navarre. This session was led by Agustín Rovira Lara, President of AGECU.

The view expressed at the conference was that this draft legislation and the work that has led to it was a significant step forward and the desire of the Government of Navarre to lead the way was evident and welcome. However, there are still many steps to take and support from across the political spectrum as well as business leaders and others beyond place management who have been driving this, is seen as key. There are a series of elections in Spain in the next few months and this adds to the uncertainty. Even if all goes well, and BIDs are established in Navarre, they cannot be replicated across Spain until national legislation is introduced, but they may well provide an important model on how this can be done.