BOURNEMOUTH has been among the best places in the country to set up a small business during the past decade, a study suggests.

The town was placed fifth in a league table of the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK – ahead of such major centres as Edinburgh, Cambridge and Bristol.

The research, by the business advice site Informi, judged whether each town had the right ingredients for small and medium sized businesses to succeed in each year of the 2010s. It considered annual start-ups and closures, the total business stock, the qualifications of the local workforce, housing affordability, pollution and unemployment rates.

Reading topped the table, followed by Brighton, Northampton and London.

Shaun Armstrong, who founded Poole-based car finance broker Creditplus in 2004, said: “Bournemouth provides a fantastic work-life balance, with the beach, New Forest and a cosmopolitan town.

“There’s two great universities on our doorstep and an established professional services industry which offers a secure pool of skilled talent, essential to a growing business.

“I’m proud to have started a business in Bournemouth, as digital businesses have grown over two times faster than the rest of the UK, breeding a strong community of entrepreneurs and the infrastructure to grow.”

Kasia Bigda, of premium noodle maker Mr Lee’s Pure Foods in Bournemouth, said: “Bournemouth is not a retirement town anymore. With two universities, it has turned into a vibrant hub for young talent who love the chilled vibe of a seaside town.

“It explains why over 400 digital agencies made it home and why it entices entrepreneurs who are looking for a perfect work life balance. Multiple food brands like us also started here and are utilising the talent of graduates who often are staying here after finishing university, to benefit from everything what Bournemouth has to offer.”

Annette D’Abreo, managing director of the Bournemouth-based brand services company Ceuta Group, said good transport links and communications worked in the town’s favour.

“Our clients love to visit the area and sometimes extend their stay beyond the meeting. They often have family and friends linked to Bournemouth University and AUB, and I can take a client to a Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concert during the week,” she said.

“For our staff, the quality of life is superb with our golden sandy beaches, water sports such as sailing and paddle boarding, park runs, cycling in the Purbecks and the New Forest etc.”

Informi spokesman Steven Drew said: “The number of businesses in the UK has grown steadily over the past decade – up from around 4.5 million in 2010 to 5.7 million in 2018, which is around record high levels. With well over 99 per cent of all businesses qualifying as small and medium-sized enterprises, it is clear that the entrepreneurial spirit in our country is higher than ever before – and our leading towns and cities are helping to facilitate this.”