Last Friday (2 October) we held our fourth virtual breakfast discussion this time focussed on the urban centres of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
We enjoyed a wide ranging discussion including how we may be beginning to see the emergence of a hierarchy in urban centres with the ‘city centre’ or ‘town centre’ becoming the focus of social, cultural and healthcare provision (with reduced retail offer) whilst the smaller outer district centres become the focus of local shopping needs.
With more home working people want somewhere close to shop for day-to-day items or have somewhere to simply have a break from their ‘home office’. A number of attendees reported that smaller secondary high streets are seeing an increase in new openings.
The theme of the urban centre actually comprising a number of distinct areas or being a cluster of ‘villages within the city’ has been a discussion point at more than one virtual breakfast, and we are hearing of many local examples of the concept of the ’15 minute city’.
We also discussed BCP Council’s R3 Programme (Respond, Recover and Reimagine) focussed on managing and then thriving after the pandemic. Businesses, understandably, have been focused on ‘Respond’ and ‘Recover’ but thinking is now moving to ‘Reimagine’. Reimagining our urban centres will be a major part of that.
Housing was another key issue, particularly whether urban centres provide attractive housing for families and whether families want to live in urban centres at all. Will families always prefer to live on the outskirts of an urban centre (because of larger housing, garden space, availability of education and healthcare provision)? And, do our urban centres suffer from having a lack of families living in them and should our urban centres be more focussed on all age groups?
Now drawing to a close, our series of discussions have provided many interesting examples of the themes that have been uncovered in our research. To mark the publication of the final report in November 2020, a launch event will be held to discuss our conclusions and the findings of the breakfast discussions.
Image credit @Drawnalism, Drawnalism Ltd.