AS the nation continues to take its first tentative steps out of its third national lockdown, town centres are opening up for the first time in months.

Al fresco dining and drinking has been taking place across Dorset, as the hospitality industry – which plays such an important role in our town centres – works to accommodate the latest government regulations.

Poole is among many towns across the UK that is welcoming back the crowds, as non-essential retail starts trading again.

Bournemouth Echo: The Hight Street in Poole

But what has been done to get people back shopping in Poole town centre?

Has much has changed since we came out of the lockdown before this latest one?

In this special report we look at this in closer detail.

What has Poole BID been doing?

POOLE'S Business Improvement District organisation, better known as Poole BID, has been working with its members, BCP Council and other partners to make the town centre an attractive option for shoppers. James Croker, chairman of the Poole BID board of directors, told the Daily Echo there are a number of initiatives taking place.

One of them is the Marvellous Market, a Sunday market at Orchard Plaza with numerous stalls and live musical entertainment.

It will be taking place in Poole Old Town, from 10am-6pm, from Sunday, April 18.

Other events designed to draw in the shoppers include live street music, scheduled throughout Poole Old Town and Poole Quay during spring and summer.

The town's lower High Street was pedestrianised before the pandemic struck, as part of ongoing plans to breath new life into central Poole.

Bournemouth Echo:

Mr Croker said: "We've worked hard on behalf of businesses - the street is going to remain pedestrianised throughout the summer months to allow traders, certainly hospitality, to take full advantage of their pavement licences.

"The idea is to maximise footfall in the town centre in the summer months, but to also understand that our merchants, in the winter months, need customers to be able to park and pop into shops."

However, not everyone was happy with that move.

Read more: Pedestrianisation of Lower Poole High Street upsets residents

On returning from lockdown, Mr Croker said: "We have Marvellous Markets on a Sunday which is to try and encourage people to come into the town centre.

"We've partnered with BCP Council to have all the streets cleansed, we've been buying signage for Covid safety, we have 4,000 tests for our levy payers - so they can test their staff.

"We have hanging baskets coming, we are liaising with the council with regard to pavement licenses - so yes there has been loads and loads of stuff going on."

"And the Sunday markets won't conflict with the levy players in the BID.

"They are just another offering to try and people down into the town centre and to enjoy what it has to offer."

Kingland: Poole's new shopping district is open for business

THE latest shopping district in Poole, boasting ten 'hand-picked independent retailers', opened to the public fully for the first time earlier this month.

Bournemouth Echo: Kingland Crescent

The Kingland development, at Kingland Crescent adjoining the Dolphin Shopping Centre, has been billed as a 'boutique shopping experience' and is part of plans by Legal & General – landlords and owners of the Dolphin Shopping Centre – to breath new life into Poole town centre.

All ten new outlets will not have to pay any rent or business rates for the first two years.

And in time there are plans to hold a street market at Kingland with up to 20 independent vendors – and a programme of 300 local events.

Read More: Poole's boutique shopping district Kingland is now open

Denz Ibrahim, head of retail and futuring at LGIM Real Assets, said: “Kingland is a physical manifestation of what can happen when you offer deliberately ambitious, bold, creative, standout brands – who are doing something a bit different – a platform to launch their ideas and share their stories.

"It will deliver a market-leading environment jam-packed with hand-picked brands, programmed events and content all sourced locally.

"It is a great example of our role as an editor of space, shaping environments to ensure we have the right content, at the right time, in the right places.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Legal & General is to also develop a street market at Kingland which will comprise 20 independent vendors.

Additionally, plans are already in progress to bring an annual programme of 300 local events to the new retail space.

Outside seating?

PERMISSION is being sought for outside seating to be installed along Kingland Crescent in Poole, along with other outlets throughout the town.

Legal & General, which owns the retail units lining the street, has submitted plans to BCP Council that would allow businesses to set up external areas for their customers.

Read more: Seating plan for Poole's Kingland Crescent

Poole BID says it is working to support members who want to apply for pavement licences.

What about extended opening hours?

THE Dolphin Shopping Centre has extended its opening hours to aid the reopening of non-essential retail.

It will open 7.30am – 7:30pm, Mondays – Fridays, and 8am – 6.30pm, Saturdays and Sundays.

These extended times will be in place from Monday, April 12 – Friday, April 23 2021.

The opening hours will then resume to 8am – 6.30pm daily.

What is BCP Council doing to help Poole reopen?

Bournemouth Echo: Poole town centre. Picture: Bournemouth Helicopters

Chris Shephard, director of development for BCP Council, said: "Rejuvenating Poole remains a key focus and project in the council’s Big Plan and work to progress this has not stopped.

"We intend to invest in the area to bring about major regeneration for both residents and the local business community.

"Supporting our business industry has always been a priority for the council, but especially throughout the pandemic, and we continue to take positive action to ensure that they have a safe, clean and welcoming environment in which to reopen and welcome customers back to.

"Partnership working is at the heart of this and we recognise the benefits that Poole BID bring to the area, including a joint fund with BCP Council to deep clean the town centre.

"Following the opening of outdoor hospitality, providing a safe experience for all who are visiting the Poole area is essential, but we also wanted to create an enjoyable experience which includes additional planters, floor vinyls and 70 welcome flags which celebrate the local heritage.

"Additionally, the council’s Festival Coast Live curated programme hopes to see a variety of events and entertainment along the quay and within Poole town.”

Read more: BCP Council unveils Festival Coast Live! event for May