Posted on Friday 22nd March 2019
At the final Bournemouth Council Cabinet meeting on 20 March, the importance of partnership working and the benefits to the town were very much on the agenda. It was recently announced that Bournemouth is bucking the trend in visitor numbers to the town centre, as evidenced by footfall figures.
Bournemouth’s Town Centre Vision, which sets out a strategic, long term approach for the town centre, has been instrumental in encouraging and facilitating positive change. In April 2018, the Council set up the first roundtable meeting of those involved with or operating on the high street. This included landlords, agents, business leaders and other important investors such as the Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) and the Chamber of Commerce. The aim of these sessions is to provide a forum where key issues can be discussed and to create a joint approach to finding solutions.
Paul Kinvig, Chief Operating Officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID, was invited to speak to Cabinet and report the BID’s findings. Mr Kinvig noted that whilst towns in the South West are showing a decline from 2017 to 2018 in footfall of an average -3.6%, and coastal towns specifically averaging a decline of -4.7%, Bournemouth can report an increase of 15%.
Both footfall and the length of time visitors spend in the town are vital for businesses. From working together, the BID and Bournemouth Council can evidence the direct correlation between the sustained efforts to increase footfall and the resulting numbers of people we are seeing spending in local businesses. Events such as the Christmas Tree Wonderland, organised through a partnership between the BID and the Council, showed unprecedented success. The Lower Gardens camera recorded 793,473 visitors over the six-week period around Christmas 2018; 73% more than 2017.
So far in 2019, the figures continue to be encouraging. January and February footfall figures were up 23% and 8% respectively, with February sales reported by 63% of retailers to be the same or better in February 2019 than the same time last year. This, despite the gloomy picture elsewhere in the UK.
Paul Kinvig Chief Operating Officer of Bournemouth Town Centre BID said:
“We are an independent organisation, funded by Bournemouth businesses but partnership working is a key and essential strategy to driving growth and success. This has been demonstrated in areas where the BID and the local authority have worked together. We are in a much better position than that which many other towns and cities are finding themselves. Christmas Tree Wonderland was a phenomenal success and we have reliable, independent footfall data on which to base firm decisions."
Mr Kinvig highlighted the wide range of shops and restaurants on offer in Bournemouth and applauded the extensive range of events and activities organised in the town. Bournemouth’s public realm improvements, including that at Beale Place were also acknowledged. Over £10m of public realm investment has been made which includes improvements at Beale Place, Horseshoe Common, Richmond Hill, Bourne Avenue, and Pier Approach. A further £8.5m will be invested in Lansdowne soon. These investments have helped to create environments that people want to spend time in. The creation of the Bournemouth Development Company has led to hundreds of homes for local people, enabling them to live, build and maintain communities within the town centre. Since 2011, £300 million of development has been completed, £180 million of development is currently in construction, and £250 million of development is currently in planning.
Factors which can impact visitors negatively were not ignored, and Mr Kinvig urged that despite the successes this was not a time for complacency. Cleanliness, parking, rough sleeping and begging also influence the overall experience for the visitor and remain part of current and future action plans.
Rough sleeping and begging are particularly difficult issues to tackle. Helping an individual off the street can be a lengthy process with many struggling with very complex needs. The Council’s specialist Rough Sleeper Team delivered by St Mungos works together with many statutory and voluntary sector partners to help get each individual into the support and accommodation they need as quickly as possible. We have recently successfully bid for additional central government funds to scale up our resources in this area. In the last three months there has been a decline in the number of rough sleepers in Bournemouth, but it is clear that there isn’t a quick solution.
The BID also works with the Council in an initiative providing Town Rangers, a friendly and hospitable team who help deter crime and act as the welcoming face of Bournemouth. The BID also announced it would be working with volunteers and the Council on 3 April as part of the nationwide Great British Spring Clean campaign.
Cllr John Beesley, Leader of Bournemouth Council said:
“There is still more work to be done, and with a challenging and measurable action plan to address the issues, there can be no doubt that partnership working is benefiting Bournemouth. By listening to our partners, tackling difficult issues, and with significant Council investment into public realm, we are making good progress through sustained improvements to the town.”
Cllr Philip Broadhead, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth said
“We cannot underestimate the progress that has been made, with colleagues in economic development and tourism working closely together with the support of partners such as the BID. We are seeing how the impact of a joined-up approach has a positive effect, not just for events in the town, but for the wider area, its businesses and those choosing to live here. I urge our teams to continue to work together so that Bournemouth can continue to be a thriving and enjoyable destination to visit, work and live in.”