THE inside story of how a last-minute deal was hammered out to bring an American banking giant to Bournemouth can be told for the first time.

It is 30 years since it was announced that Chase Manhattan Bank – now JP Morgan – was to relocate its UK headquarters to the town.

Now the former council leader who led the negotiations has told how the move almost collapsed and was rescued over dinner at a Bournemouth hotel.

David Trenchard, who led the Conservative-controlled council when the relocation was announced in 1984, recalled how he first heard that Chase was interested in Bournemouth.

He was at an agenda meeting for the council’s housing committee when deputy chief executive Peter Challen asked for five minutes of his time.

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Mr Trenchard said: “What had happened was this guy had turned up at the reception desk, an American guy, John Freyer, and he said he was thinking of moving his bank to Bournemouth and had been given this site down at Castle Lane which was in two ownerships.”

Mr Trenchard was in the removals business and had helped Barclays move its international operation to Poole, as well as a move by Gresham International to Bournemouth. He talked to the visiting executive about the benefits of moving to the town.

“He then came clean and said he was just about to sign a deal to move to Swindon and before he did it, he was having a look at other odd sites that agents had sent him,” Mr Trenchard added.

The Bournemouth site in question was at Wessex Fields, where the law courts, Village hotel and Tesco are today.

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The council did not have access to government money to encourage the development. “We came up with a plan that as a council we would try and get him £800,000 of landscaping that we would need to make it attractive for them to relocate,” said Mr Trenchard.

Mr Trenchard informed his Liberal opposite number Douglas Eyre and Labour group leader Lionel Bennett but the news was kept quiet. “I have to say it was the only time in my life on the council that I ever knew us being able to keep a secret,” he said.

At a crucial stage in the process, a dinner was arranged in a top floor of the Palace Court Hotel in Westover Road, involving the political leaders, council officers and senior London executives from Chase. But it emerged that one of the Castle Lane land owners had changed their minds about selling – and with only one of the two pieces of land at Wessex Fields available, the deal would be off.

However, the council was about to receive the last of seven instalments of land being transferred into its ownership from the Cooper Dean Estate – along with a manor house, Littledown House.

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Mayor, Cllr Harry Bostock, performs topping out ceremony in February 1990

Mr Trenchard said: “Littledown House was going to cost us a lot of money to maintain in the future. We came up with a plan – why not let them have Littledown House and the land around equivalent in size to what they were buying and let them put it there?”

But planning permission could have been a sticking point. A senior planning official was found that evening to consult the relevant documents and confirm that the idea would be acceptable in principle.

“W e all sat around a table and hammered out the deal and that was agreed so John Freyer and his team could go back to London with a deal on paper. We took the Wessex Fields site and gave them the other site,” said Mr Trenchard.

The sale of that other site for development later enabled the council to build the Littledown Centre, he said.

Douglas Eyre, leader of the Liberal group, remembers wondering, the morning after that meeting, how the idea would go down, given that the Littledown site had been discussed as a possible country park.

That morning, he visited one of the council’s most conservative members, Cyril Dyer.

“He said ‘If it’s about jobs, it takes priority’,” Mr Eyre said.

“I used to quote that afterwards when I was leader. You’ve got to have a good case for arguing against jobs, particularly for the kids.”

News of Chase’s interest in the town was reported in the Daily Echo under the headline “1,000 new jobs in bank move”.

Some thought there would not be that many jobs – but today, JPMorgan employs at least 4,000.

It was a significant moment for Bournemouth, which had already drawn Abbey Life to the town and was keen to bring in more professional jobs as the traditional holiday declined.

“We had people actively promoting the town as a destination for moving firms out of Central London,” said Mr Trenchard.

Douglas Eyre added: “Looking back, it was a wonderful thing for Bournemouth but as with all these decisions, at the time there are always plenty of reasons for not doing stuff – and Bournemouth is good at finding them.”

JPMorgan – its impact in Bournemouth

JPMorgan’s Bournemouth site is a technology and operations centre, supporting activity in more than 90 markets across more than 40 countries.

More than 1,000 technology specialists are based in Bournemouth.

The company completed a programme to renew infrastructure at the site in 2011. Last year, the company piloted the JPMorgan Apprenticeship Programme, which has seen 20 apprentices join in the town.

Its Schools Engagement Programme has seen it work with more than 2,000 students at 80 events last year as it focused on improving young people’s employability.

Its work experience programme for schools is offering 200 places for summer 2014 – and was filled within four days of the application process opening.

The company sponsored the Business Engagement with the Community category at the 2013 Dorset Business Awards.

Its philanthropic investments have included the Achieve Together educational project, with funding of £1.1million, and other projects with the Catch 22 apprenticeship programme and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s education project BSO Blast.