NEW ideas to transform Christchurch into a 21st century town centre have put heritage at the heart of the fresh proposals.

Residents will have the chance to comment on the transformation designed to highlight Christchurch’s rich history while providing a boost for the economy and tourism.

Billed as ‘small changes to make a big difference’ the improvements include the creation of a ‘heritage triangle’ linking historic sites such as the Priory, Castle ruins and Constable’s House.

The council has worked with consultants Barr Gazetas to devise the town centre strategy. And if the ideas are approved by residents, proposals for major changes to the Fountain roundabout, High Street and other shopping areas could be moved forward.

Proposals for free wifi in the town centre, improved shop fronts and new street furniture feature alongside suggestions the Mayor’s Parlour could become a new heritage centre or tourist information centre.

Vacant spaces above shops could be used as ‘vibrant’ business hubs for young start up companies, the raft of ideas suggest.

It is hoped changes to the High Street, which include wider pavements, will reduce the amount of traffic and speed, making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists.

And the consultants have also been in talks with highways officers at Dorset County Council over re-designing the Fountain roundabout.

Plans to make it a crossroad and remove the underpass have been discussed to ensure there is a proper gateway to the town.

Also, by making the road level with the pavement at the Mayor’s Parlour and possibly outside the Regent Centre, the heritage of both buildings could be emphasised, the report says. In Castle Street, consultants have suggested the same measure, repaving with granite to create a ‘heritage piazza’ outside the King’s Hotel, also improving access to the Bowling Green.

Better paths and linkages, improving views of the Castle, digging trial trenches to uncover archaeological artefacts and celebrating the old town walls are also recommended.

Potential housing sites are listed as the Waitrose car park – with extra parking spaces created to maintain provision, Millhams corner, near the Saxon Square car park, Bank Close and Wick Lane.

Long-term housing sites are cited as Beagle, the gas site and the golf course.

Council leader's proposal

“We have got to create a different experience.”

That’s the view of Christchurch council leader Ray Nottage on the future of Christchurch town centre.

“We need to build on the rich and vast heritage of our town”, he said.

“The previous town centre strategy in 2003 didn’t produce a lot because the ideas were too extensive, grandiose and too general.

“It was the opposite of what we wanted.

“We want to understand the visitor experience. And we want a town centre with people living in the centre of it.

“We have to grow our community from the inside out.

“If we see what’s happened over the last four years, it is very interesting to see how the High Street has changed.”

He said the strategy was both aesthetically and economically driven.

“One drives the other. The underlying problem is how do we finance it?

“I don’t think finance should deter us from the thought process and the exciting consultation process of seeing what we can do.

“(But) this is the worst period of austerity for the past 100 years.

“We have to be very, very careful.

“We are not going to be a Bournemouth or a Castlepoint; we aren’t going to have that sort of offer.”
Alistair Barr, managing director of Barr Gazetas added: “What we have got which they (Castlepoint) haven’t is heritage.

“This is not one big project. These ideas are designed to be phased out over a long period. But the emphasis is on small changes which can create a big difference.

“At this stage, these are just ideas; we want and welcome feedback.”
Cllr Nottage added: “I do believe there will be people who don’t want us to do anything. But we have to react to what’s happening out there.

“There are opportunities I don’t think we are making the most of.”


The exhibition will be held on Monday under the Mayor’s Parlour in the High Street from 10am to 4pm.
Following the exhibition, display boards will be in The Regent Centre from October 7 to 13, from 10am to 10pm.
You can view the plans online from Monday.