Bournemouth is the business, leisure, tourism, cultural, geographical and administrative heart of a south coast city region that stretches in a continuous 15-mile arc, from the twelfth century port of Poole through Bournemouth to the Anglo-Saxon town of Christchurch.
On its own, Bournemouth is the largest conurbation in Dorset and the third-largest in the South West. It is also the economic and cultural driver of the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole conurbation of almost 500,000 people, making it the largest urban area in the UK where no part yet has city status.
With origins that have been traced back to the Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age, the town was created as a seaside and spa resort in the early nineteenth century, growing rapidly through the foresight and ambition of business people, philanthropists and civic leaders from just 1,100 people in 1831 to 53,000 by 1901 and 193,600 in the bid area today.
As a resort which welcomes seven million visitors a year, Bournemouth is famous for its long, pristine sandy beaches, sweeping from east to west, for its Victorian piers and town civic architecture, for two miles of continuous landscaped public gardens and for its many and varied events – from the UK’s biggest air festival to Arts By The Sea and the season-long Festival Coast Live!
A modern town, Bournemouth has diversified into a vibrant commercial centre. It opened one of the world’s premier conference venues in 1984, has developed as one of the UK’s largest financial centres outside London and Edinburgh, worth more than £1 billion a year in gross value added, and more recently created an innovation and digital hub to attract new businesses and to tap into the young talent pool graduating from its three universities.
Bournemouth is also a southern gateway, with well-established national and international transport links, with Europe’s largest natural harbour on its doorstep in Poole, one of the longest runways in southern England at Bournemouth Airport, serving 800,000 passengers a year, and direct rail links to London, Southampton, Birmingham and Manchester.
In 2021 BCP Council launched its Big Plan – a bold vision for investment in regeneration, civic spaces, infrastructure and seafront redevelopment, to generate 15,000 new homes, 13,000 new jobs and £3 billion of gross value added, continuing two centuries of municipal investment in civic pride in the town.
With its world class and easily accessible beach and attractive mix of Victorian, Edwardian and modern architecture, an obvious pride in maintaining a clean, safe environment, and extensive green spaces, national and international transport links, investment in fast digital connections, and diverse and growing commercial sectors, universities, leisure and nightlife opportunities, Bournemouth has gained a reputation as a vibrant, attractive and more easy-going place to live than London and other much larger cities.
Bournemouth deserves and desires city status, not just in recognition of its position and accomplishments to date, but also as a springboard to help it to achieve its bold, confident and proud ambitions for the future. Over just two centuries, Bournemouth has evolved from empty heathland into the largest, most vibrant, economically and culturally diverse town, not only in Dorset, but along the 100-mile coastline from Southampton to Exeter. And not only is there no other city in Dorset – there are none along the entirety of that shore.
It is time for Bournemouth to be honoured with city status to mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and bring overdue recognition to this thriving centre of coastal England.