LAST week’s announcements by The Ivy and GIANT gallery were a double blow to Bournemouth. These decisions underline that efforts to regenerate the town centre are failing and that where there are pockets of success, we are failing to support them.

GIANT was an example of success. It was more than just a gallery. It was a space of inspiration and community that attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Bournemouth. It had the potential to create the conditions that attract establishments like The Ivy.

It also proved that there is appetite for the arts in our town and a collective aspiration to see the arts play a central role in its future.

Just look at how towns like Margate, Eastbourne and Folkstone have transformed with investment in and support for the arts. They have attracted visitors, increased footfall, nurtured local talent, and provided an anchor around which to build thriving town centres for all.

The opportunity is even greater in Bournemouth. There are no other significant visual arts galleries on this section of the south coast, and we already have world-class creative venues and one of the country’s best arts schools in AUB. There is a strong foundation for the council, local businesses, creatives and residents to get behind. It’s a no brainer that this is a unique advantage that should be part of any strategy to revitalise the town.

Every day I speak to people who are passionate about the potential of Bournemouth but who are disappointed by the state of the town centre. They want safe, clean streets and a thriving high street that builds on our local identity.

I know that a large cultural institution like GIANT won’t solve the whole problem. It will require a national plan to support our high streets and local businesses, including by tackling the cost of living crisis, scrapping business rates, cracking down on anti-social behaviour and helping councils fill empty shops. It can, however, be a significant part of the solution that helps capitalise on our rich cultural and natural assets.

It’s time to halt the decline. A permanent gallery, that can attract world-class exhibitions and provide workshop and community spaces, could provide the catalyst we’ve all been waiting for – and create the type of town The Ivy and businesses like it would be proud to be part of.

Jessica Toale

Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Bournemouth West