I AM writing to respond to the letter from Mark Jones (Daily Echo, February 21) about issues in Bournemouth town centre.

As most people know, the retail sector, and high streets generally, are undergoing unprecedented change across the country. These changes are being caused by the growth of internet shopping, changes in customer demands and an oversupply of shops resulting in empty properties as some go out of business. National brands such as M&S are being forced to restructure and close stores as they react to this change. The council has therefore been working with landlords, agents and retailers for some time to look at ways in which we can improve the current situation.

Early last year I introduced regular high street round table meetings with key retailers in the town, as well as the Town Centre BID, landlords, councillors and other interested parties. From this we are now working on a Town Centre Project Plan to tackle the various issues and looking at what works elsewhere. We are currently holding discussions and workshops to develop these ideas further and start to make a difference as we come into the summer.

Our ultimate aim as set out in the original Vision document remains, that by 2026 Bournemouth town centre will be rejuvenated so it will be even better, more competitive and renowned as a place of high quality for residents, businesses and visitors.

We are working towards this by continuing to invest in major projects such as the public realm (currently in Beale Place), Bournemouth Gardens, Pier Approach, as well as our major events and festivals. Doing this will ensure the town centre is a better place to live, visit, work, invest and socialise.

In terms of homelessness and rough sleeping, we are all very aware of the issues across most town and city centres. With the resources available (£9.4m a year in Bournemouth alone), shelter is available for anyone without a roof over their head, providing they will accept it. Council staff and St Mungo’s, along with many others, work tirelessly to improve the lives of homeless people, every day and night of the year. As residents and businesses would expect however, the council has a robust enforcement approach to tackle anti-social behaviour and begging, but we still need to achieve more through even closer working with the police.

I am only too well aware of the issues concerning people in Bournemouth town centre and we will continue to work towards solving them in this extremely challenging environment


Leader of Bournemouth council