A GOVERNMENT minister said he was “struck by the change that’s happened” on Bournemouth seafront as he officially opened the revamped Pier Approach.

Coastal communities minister Jake Berry was joined by pupils from Moordown St John’s Primary School to unveil a plaque at the site.

The west side of Pier Approach has been refurbished with a £1.9million grant from the Coastal Communities Fund, following a £4m revamp of the east side.

Mr Berry said: “It’s the first time I’ve visited Bournemouth since around 2005 and today I’ve been absolutely struck by the change that’s happened on the Pier Approach.

“We’re here to open the new Pier Approach, which has been a real partnership between government and the local council, investing over £4m in creating a new gateway to Bournemouth’s world-famous and world-renowned seafront.”

He also used the occasion to launch the Coastal Revival Fund, which has £1m to give out in grants of up to £50,000, for smaller projects, or to support the process of putting together bigger applications.

“Together with the local member of Parliament, Conor Burns, I’m calling upon communities across the Jurassic Coast to look for those smaller projects of up to £50,000 that they can do to transform and improve their coastline,” he said.

Mr Berry – who campaigned to remain in the European Union but later declared he had got it wrong – claimed Brexit would be good for the town. He said there had already been a 25 per cent rise in overseas visitors to the resort.

“There’s never been a more important time for the government to get behind our coastal communities because, when you look at the challenges of Brexit, I think that Britain leaving the European Union will be good for towns like Bournemouth,” he said.

“I think it’s really reconnected people with everything our fantastic coastline has to offer here in the UK but also gives an opportunity to talk in a newly positive way about everything that’s great about Britain, everything that’s great about the British coastline, and bring those international visitors not just from Europe but the rest of the world.”

Mr Berry said he would personally like to see the Conservative conference return to the seaside.

The Tories have not held their autumn gathering in the resort since 2006, while Labour has not visited since 2007.

“I don’t’ control where the Conservative Party holds its conference but on a very personal level I think, absolutely, all political parties should look at returning to the seaside,” he said.

He said for delegates to the conferences, “it’s an absolutely fantastic time of year in late September or early October to visit our British seaside”.

Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said of the Coastal Communities Fund: “It’s a pot of money that’s specifically designed for communities like ours, for specific projects that are geared to making the town a more attractive place to both live in and for people to come and visit, which in turn drives up the number of visitors and drives up growth, prosperity and jobs locally.”