"WE'VE listened and we’re now taking action."

These are the words of BCP Council leader Vikki Slade following a town centre summit to turn the fortunes of Bournemouth around. 

More than 50 key players gathered at the Echo Building on Richmond Hill on Monday morning. 

These included developers, local businesses and political leaders, alongside representatives from the arts, Dorset Police, Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth.

They met to ‘harness a collective agreement to improve the town centre by working together’.

Ultimately, they identified six main areas for improvement: working, shopping, moving, wellbeing, living and playing, with action plans developed for each.

During the event, councillor Slade asked attendees to make a pledge for the town centre. These are yet to be revealed.

Moving forward, groups will be set up to begin delivering changes for the area.

Cllr Slade said: “I made a commitment earlier this year to prioritise the improvement of Bournemouth, as we know that people really care about it and want to see it developed and improved.”

She added: “The public consultation we held earlier this year reinforced a lot we already knew, but it also captured some excellent ideas and suggestions from the public. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took part and voiced their views. We’ve listened and we’re now taking action.

Keynote speaker, Matt Colledge, project manager and board member for the National High Streets Task Force, said the town has ‘great foundations to build upon’.

“This summit really begins the conversation - it challenged everyone in the room to think about the town’s longer-term sustainable future, but also the immediate small improvements and changes which all add up,” he said.

“Now the hard work begins, but I’m in no doubt that everyone at today’s summit will build upon this morning’s successes to bring forward the next steps.”

The summit culminated with a video message from MP Michael Gove.

The minister invited Cllr Slade and council CEO Graham Farrant to meet him with Bournemouth West MP Sir Conor Burns, praising the work done across political boundaries for the benefit of the town.

Mr Burns said: “The challenges of the town centre can only be addressed through partnership - with businesses, the council, charities and police all putting ego aside and working together.

“This morning marked an encouraging start. Recognising we have a problem is the first step to putting together a plan. I will work with everyone [sic] to help.

“I will now work with councillor Vikki Slade - ahead of taking her to see Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to explore ways central Government can support our efforts.”

Cllr Slade concluded: “These collective commitments provide the pieces of the puzzle to ensure we all commit and bring about positive change for Bournemouth town centre.

“We know that the pace of change in some areas will be frustrating but I’m hopeful and heartened by everything I’ve heard today.

“Bournemouth is a brilliant town and I feel more passionate now than ever before about its bright future.”

She added: “It’s about actually making those changes so that the town runs more successfully.

“I thought this morning had a really good energy about it, some really good people in the room.

“It was great to have the support of the MP, great to get a commitment from government to have a meeting in London to see what we can do to actually help Bournemouth turn a corner.”