AS MUCH as £25m is set to be spent on refurbishing a conference centre by Bournemouth council as it looks to bring the town “back into the conferencing premier league”.

Members of the council’s cabinet gave the go-ahead to creating a business plan for the project, which would include the construction of an extension and internal renovation, on Wednesday.

They said that the investment was required for the town to keep up with conference facilities in cities across the country.

The BIC opened in 1984 and hosts a range of business and sporting events, as well as concerts.

Although owned by Bournemouth council, its day-to-day running is managed by BH Live.

Several modernisation and renovation projects have been carried out since with £22m spent by the council on the facility in 2008 and 2009.

However, the British Meetings and Events Industry annual study has ranked the town as the 21st most popular business destination in the UK last year – down from 14th in 2009.

At Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, its members agreed to give the go-ahead for plans to be drawn-up for a series of renovation projects totalling up to £25m.

Councillors, many of whom spent last week at the Conservative party conference at Birmingham’s International Conference Centre, said that the investment was required to keep Bournemouth as one of the country’s most popular business event locations.

Nationally, the conferencing industry generates more than £30bn each year while the BIC is estimated to support 4,500 jobs, according to a council report.

Backing the investment, Cllr Bob Lawton said: “We saw with our own eyes the superb facilities elsewhere in the country and we need to maintain our position as a top conference destination.

“It’s a huge money earner for this town and I believe that this investment is the way forward.”

Councils across the country have invested heavily in conference facilities in recent years with a new £125m facility in Glasgow opening in 2013 and a £333m centre due to open in Aberdeen next year.

Council leader Cllr John Beesley added that the investment would ensure that Bournemouth keeps its place in the "premier league of conference destinations.

"This is a very fast-moving world and if anyone is in doubt they only need to go to Birmingham and Liverpool to see what we’re up against," he said.

The cabinet unanimously agreed to allow council officers to begin drawing up a business case for the refurbishment work with £100,000 set aside from a £227,000 fund allocated for its “economic growth projects”.