BOURNEMOUTH, Christchurch and Poole could be a “fantastic environment” for people “streaming out” of major cities in search of better wellbeing, the leader of BCP Council told business people.

Cllr Drew Mellor was speaking at The Future of BCP, part of the free BCP Business Festival, organised by Poole-based business community Evolve with the help of a council bounce back grant.

Cllr Mellor said: “People are streaming out of historic cities and they want wellbeing communities. They want fantastic environments where they can still be connected. My real belief is we have a unique opportunity to do something for this place.

“We talk about raising ambition and trying to make this place match what it actually should be.”

He said this idea was behind the recent launch of FuturePlaces, an urban regeneration company owned by the council and given the task of delivering investment across the area. It aims to support the council’s Big Plan of five projects to create 13,000 jobs and deliver 15,000 quality homes.

The council’s deputy leader, Cllr Philip Broadhead, told the audience at Poole Civic Centre: “When we came in, the resource and the capacity and the experience that we had in house was nowhere near matching the vision we had.”

He said the Big Plan projects were worth around £3billlion to the economy and had been “pipe dream projects” but were ready to go.

He said the council had handed out around £170m in Covid support grants.

“It’s enabled us to connect with those businesses in a way that we haven’t been allowed to before. We were really constrained by state aid rules. That’s changed through the Covid period so we’re not able to be much more interventionist,” he added.

He said the council was creating a “concierge” service for businesses, to “help unlock the door” for firms which needed assistance or were “having some problems with the local authority”.

Cllr Broadhead said the area had recently been named one of the UK’s top 20 most innovative “cities”. “A lot of that is the number of start-ups and the number of small and medium sized businesses,” he said.