A growing population of young, tech-savvy professionals; a burgeoning digital economy; a hotbed of creative and artistic talent. Twenty years ago these weren’t things one might associate with Bournemouth, but in recent years a programme of significant investment and development has reinvigorated the town, helping to shift its traditional reputation for a slower pace of life and as a prime coastal retirement destination.
Since 2011, this has been spearheaded by the Bournemouth Development Company (BDC), a 50:50 joint venture between the borough council and Morgan Sindall Investments. The partnership brings together the knowledge and assets of the local authority with the skills, networks and supply chain relationships that we can provide as a private partner. Together this is delivering a regeneration programme that is encouraging people to move to Bournemouth as well as improving the quality of life of its inhabitants.
Although not a new concept, long-term public-private partnerships are one of the most effective ways of delivering the positive change which communities need to be able to grow and prosper.
When done well, they empower councils to be fully embedded in regeneration projects, ensuring that high-quality amenities and homes are built in the right locations at a faster pace of delivery. In Bournemouth’s case, the JV has helped breathe life back into the town, encouraging growth to benefit a new generation as well as its existing residents. The local authority can reinvest its half of the profits back into the community where it matters most, while overcoming traditional barriers such as increasingly squeezed budgets.
Inevitably, there can be challenges, but regular dialogue, honesty and transparency will help to ensure these partnerships secure results and deliver against changing political and economic uncertainty, which can often become obstacles to long-term planning,
It’s through such a robust working relationship, alongside complementary programmes across the town, that over £200m of development has been completed in Bournemouth, and in just six years the benefits for the area have been significant. To date, the partnership has delivered projects including vital new town centre apartment buildings and much-needed student accommodation to help address housing need. It continues to oversee an extensive development pipeline to support this ongoing programme of large-scale urban renewal. In the short term this means delivering a £25m programme of residential development, as well as progressing plans to transform the former Winter Gardens concert hall site into a £150m mixed-use leisure, retail and new housing destination.
Improved housing and infrastructure have spurred the economic success of the area. Bournemouth, together with neighbouring Poole, has been identified as the top location in the country for high-growth digital businesses; the sector employs over 13,000 people and contributes £350m to the local economy.
Bournemouth is now one of the fastest growing locations in the UK and, with an average age of just 34 years old, its status as an up and coming and exciting place to live, work and study continues apace. The successful delivery of the partnership is acting as a catalyst for the reinvigoration of the wider conurbation – bringing benefits for all ages, now and into the future.
Duncan Johnston is director of the Bournemouth Development Company