It is the intention of BCP Council to spend just over £21 million that has been awarded to Bournemouth from the National Towns Fund on the general revival of Boscombe Town Centre, from Gladstone Road across Christchurch Road to Hawkwood Road. This part of Bournemouth has been neglected in recent years and has been afflicted by a variety of debilitating problems. The new plan will include the following features:
The removal of the Sovereign Centre and the bus station
Restoration of the east-west Haviland Road
Retention of the Sovereign Centre car park
A new square on the pedestrianised section of Christchurch Road
560 Homes ( predominantly larger dwellings to support family living
A village community hall
6,700 sqm retail/leisure space
4,800 sqn of commercial. Community/health floor space
Restoration of the listed, late nineteenth century Royal Arcade
Generally speaking, the Society welcomes the general plan and form of the proposals. Apart from the planned extensive renovation of the Royal Arcade, we think the most important aspects of the scheme are the appearance of the new square and the general design of the residential neighbourhoods north and south of Christchurch Road.
A new open space would be a most welcome addition in reviving the community spirit of the area – but its design must be complimentary to the adjacent, fine late nineteenth century townscape of central Boscombe. Any idea that a so called “ Bournemouth Shard “ should be put up in this place is a complete non-starter. The predominant appearance of the townscape of the central area of the resort has always been relatively low rise and horizontal – a proud legacy of the English Garden City Planning Movement, for which Bournemouth has always been such an important pioneer.
Certainly, two large belvedere towers with elegant receding domes may eventually be attached to the new side facades of the new square – and the present, rather grand design of the massive block on the north side of this planned open space may be toned down by a less predominant, sensitive alternative. But such visual caprices cannot be compared to the bizarre and over the top, high rise structures that have gone up within the central parts of Brighton in recent years, to observe what an aesthetically debilitating effect these developments have had on the context of the exceptionally fine maritime Georgian terraces along the sea front of the resort.
With reference to the proposed new housing neighbourhoods, the Society is very pleased to observe that those roads, Haviland, Gladstone, Hawkwood, where the original urban layout was radically disturbed by new road works and unplanned parking schemes in recent decades, will be recolonised by low rise, terraced, residential accommodation – modern in design – but similar in mass and form to properties in adjacent streets.
In this regard the Society is so pleased that the new BCP Council is taking fully into consideration the EAST BOSCOMBE AND POKESDOWN CHARACTERISATION STUDY (2009 ), undertaken by the Bournemouth Civic Society and written by the Society’s Built Environment Consultant, John Soane, for and on behalf of the old Borough of Bournemouth Council. The main conclusion of the report was that a high proportion of the terraced artisan houses of East Boscombe still properly fulfil their original purpose of providing reasonably pleasant, inexpensive homes to both single people and families of modest means – very similar indeed to the expressed intentions for what is hoped to be achieved in the new neighbourhoods of the Boscombe renovation plan.
Certainly the presence of many modest but practically designed, individual houses on closely built up sites in the area over the last century is a strong encouragement for the further extension of further houses in this form in the near future.
Indeed if this happens, pressure will be removed for the demolition and rebuilding of some particularly neglected parts of north and east Boscombe and an enhancement given for modernisation grants to particular properties – as has already happened in Churchill Square.
The Bournemouth Civic Society strongly believes that the new Boscombe Plan is probably the very last chance substantially to improve, in an appropriately restrained fashion, the residential and retail structure of a most important part of eastern Bournemouth, and in the process to greatly reduce the present social problems of the area.