IT is a document that offers the promise of 48,000 jobs and 8,600 homes in Dorset over the next decade.

The Dorset Living Better investment prospectus sets out a vision of the county’s future that it hopes will find favour.

Its aspirations include not only faster broadband, better transport and the embrace of 5G mobile technology, but innovations that could lead the way in technology, healthcare and culture.

The key purpose of the plan is to show which sectors and places are ripe for developing, in the view of councils and business leaders.

It seeks to show government and the private sector alike where money could best be spent.

Jobs and homes for Dorset in Living Better investment plan

Cecilia Bufton, chair of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which drove the plan, said: “This is our chance to set out our stall to showcase what Dorset can do and what it’s done. We want decision makers to think of Dorset as a place to come for many of these things.”

Cynics might imagine those figures for jobs and homes have been worked out on the back of a cigarette packet, or produced via some civil servant’s proscribed formula.

But Ms Bufton says that is not the case. “It’s very specific. We’ve gone through project by project. There are at least 50 projects that have been used as examples,” she says.

“It’s not somebody sitting with a calculator saying ‘If you’ve got this much money, it would make this number of jobs’. It’s companies saying ‘If you do this, that and the other, we would be creating jobs around that’.”

Among the proposals that have specific numbers attached to them are these:

  • The Southern Growth Corridor – a series of “inter-connected sustainable communities”, between the Weymouth and Portland conurbation and Dorchester. 5,300 homes and 30 hectares of employment space.
  • Destination Dorset – a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to rebuild the tourism industry: A 25 per cent increase in staying visitors and a 30 per cent increase in their spending.
  • Dorset Innovation Park: 35 hectares for development at Winfrith, building on the site's existing strengths in defence, cyber security and energy.
  • Improved road links to motorways north of Dorset: 30,000 jobs supported, £250milion in growth.
  • A medtech (medical technology) science park at Bournemouth’s Wessex Fields: 500 jobs.
  • Coastal regeneration: More than 1,000 jobs in coastal towns, plus employment.
  • An “accelerated economic zone” in the BCP area: 5,600 jobs in 20 years.

The document is divided into four parts - Smart, Wellbeing, Natural and Living.



Current investment: £48m. Future investment: £350m. Estimated return in gross value added (GVA): £6bn.

This part of the document is all about Dorset “leading a smart revolution” by accelerating the progress of gigabit (i.e. very fast) internet and 5G mobile technology. It focuses on how technology and data can drive regeneration and economic growth.

A large part of it is about BCP Council’s Smart Place project, which is being piloted in the Lansdowne area and will be extended to Boscombe.

Smart Place investment plan announced by BCP Council

This involves more than 60 organisations coming together to explore the potential of faster connections. “This high-tech pilot not only increases Wi-Fi connectivity speed but is enabling the area’s advanced manufacturing, health and social care sectors to test and trial 5G-enabled equipment within the business district,” the prospectus says.

In the rest of the county, meanwhile, Dorset Council is spearheading the 5G RuralDorset project.

Already in development are plans to use the masts and cables of local firm Wessex Internet for “smart farm” controls, monitoring crops and livestock, with drones and robots used to spray crops more precisely.

Better digital communications is being used to support rescue organisations like the RNLI and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Dorset Gigabit strategy is being finalised to roll out the highest internet speeds across the county by 2026.

Immediate “asks”:

Support from the British Business Bank to create a Smart Challenge Fund.

A new home for the Future Networks Lab Accelerator, an event run by the technology innovation centre Digital Catapult.

Integration of BattleLab, the army’s Winfrith-based project to encourage technical innovation, with the government’s Defence and Security Accelerator team.

Establishment of a Digital Skills Partnership for Dorset.



Current investment: £39m. Future: £140m. Return: £4bn.

Across the world, the number of people aged 65 and over is growing faster than all other age groups – and Dorset will mirror the global demographic of 2050 “some 20 years early”.

This part of the plan seeks to harness opportunities to “meet the challenge of healthy ageing”.

The potential for technology to revolutionise health and care is huge. Tech could gather people’s data to help monitor their chronic conditions and could support them in looking after themselves better.

The document envisages a Living Lab in Dorset, bringing together the NHS and health technology firms, as a “magnet” for attracting research and tech businesses. It would be based at the Dorset MedTech Science Park planned for Wessex Fields, with a satellite operation at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

Dorset MedTech Science Park would be the “ideal environment to nurture industry-leading innovation research”, and would include some 500 key worker homes.

Immediate “asks”:

The creation of a specialist Institute of Smart Ageing.


Bournemouth Echo:

Aquaculture - the farming of fish and marine plants - could be a major part of Dorset's economy


Current investment: £112m. Future: £285m. Return: £5bn.

This section of the plan is about the environment and how to harness it sustainably, exploiting the “natural capital of land and sea”. There is a heavy emphasis on the “blue economy” and aquaculture – the farming of fish, shellfish and marine plants.

The plan would create a national “centre of excellence” in aquaculture, linked to the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre. There would be a Dorset Aquaculture Park identifying potential for offshore aquaculture development zones.

The section makes much of clean energy. The county currently imports 96 per cent of its energy, but could get all its power through local renewable and net zero carbon sources by 2050.

Immediate “asks”:

The location of an England Aquaculture Centre of Innovation and Dorset Aquaculture Park in the county.

A “rural productivity deal”.

More investment in the grid infrastructure.


Bournemouth Echo:

Dorset could be a centre for pioneering technology in health and care


Current investment: £88m. Future: £2.2bn. Return: £9bn.

This covers a package of measures to make Dorset “the premier destination to live, work and visit”. It would seek formal recognition of BCP as a “city region” and establish a five-year programme of events to support a bid for City of Culture status.

The Dorset Enterprise Zone at Winfrith would be extended and there would be an “accelerated economic zone” in BCP.

Up to 17 market and coastal towns would be invigorated through development.

The Southern Dorset Growth Corridor would be a series of developments between Weymouth and Dorchester.

Transport links would be improved, with a 90-minute travelling time by rail to London, and rail connections to Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol via Weymouth. There would be smart ticketing across all public transport.

There are references to a north Bournemouth “quality bus corridor” and a “city rapid transport system”.

The Dorset Skills Plan would develop skills necessary for the recovery, with targeted support for young people.

Immediate “asks”:

Formal recognition of the city region Devolution deals for transport and adult skills.

A SouthWest Tourism zone City of Culture status.

Extension of the Dorset Enterprise Zone, icnuding support for the BCP City Region Accelerated Economic Zone.



“What we have here is absolutely doable,” says LEP chair Cecilia Bufton.

“The challenge is finding the investment funds. We’re pitching against the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.”

She is aware of the politics that could get in the way. Dorset is safe Conservative territory, whereas the government may feel the urge to please the “red wall” voters of the north and Midlands who were key to the 2019 election victory.

“Dorset is not seen as needing levelling up but as you and I know, there are some areas where some money needs to be spent,” she adds.

But if the authors of the investment prospectus can persuade government, the benefits are considerable. An investment of £29.7bn over 10 years – with an estimated return of £24bn – and a higher profile for Dorset as a place businesses, visitors and households want to be.

The full document and backgrond information can be found at