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BCP Council eyes city status for multi-million cash injection

RESIDENTS in Christchurch could be asked if they would back a BCP Council bid for city status for the area to unlock millions of pounds of funding.

Cabinet member Cllr Philip Broadhead has suggested that people be asked their views – despite claims that almost nobody in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area wants it to be considered as a city or even "city region", writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Cllr Broadhead, member for regeneration and the economy, told a overview and scrutiny board meeting that in the case of Coventry it had meant a £600m cash injection, including government funding for a range of projects.

Would Christchurch benefit from being part of a city? (picture: Steve West)
Would Christchurch benefit from being part of a city? (picture: Steve West)

“I’m not wedded to it either way, but you can’t ignore the level of investment it attracts – so, worth listening to people is always my view,” he said.

“We are the 10th largest urban authority in the country. ‘City’ is a very loaded term and ‘city region’ just says ‘an urban area’ and that is the basis why government use it.

"However, I will put my hands up: politically we have put it front and centre of our big plan because we hope to drive that economic prosperity forward and it’s important that we demonstrate the actual scale we are operating on.

"But by no means do I think that has to undermine the individuality of our more rural areas, or semi-urban areas.”

Cllr Broadhead said that the view in Westminster was that the three towns were considered a city, or city region, whether or not it was labelled as such and already qualified for some financial support designed specifically for cities.

But Christchurch councillor Mike Cox said that just because the government used the phrase "city region" there was no need for BCP to follow.

“We are three towns and we have a lot of pride in our three separate towns,” he said.

Cllr Mike Brooke, chair of the Local Plan working group, added that many people wanted nothing to do with the label and the majority of his group, on a 5-2 vote, was suggesting dropping any reference to "city" in planning documents

He said: “None of the three towns is actually classed as a city and it’s therefore false to refer to a city region.

"There was considerable concern that by using the phrase ‘city region’ the characteristics of the three separate towns might, possibly, get eroded away and one of the things about BCP is that it has three towns each with their own unique characters."

Cllr Broadhead said: “We are known by government as a city region and I don’t think for one second that it changes anybody’s particular street.

"But it is a sense of ambition about the area that we are. It is about how we are viewed by government.

"But I appreciate people have different views on that and I will take it away for further consideration."

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