Around the world urban development has for the most part followed a centric model. From the smallest hamlet up to the largest metropolis, they all centred around a single point and grew outwards from there. In the UK the focal point was often the church, and as a place grew that focal point would the marketplace, which in turn would be replaced by the Central Business District (CBD).
The physical geography has always played a key role in determining both where settlements spring up as well as how they naturally expand. Settlements would almost always respect the physical geography of the local area and grow in directions that were easier and or cheaper. However, they still naturally followed a centric pattern with the focal point in the middle, surrounded by an urban zone, which in turn makes way to the suburbs and finally into the greenbelt.
This model makes perfect sense because people either need or want to live as close to the focal point as possible. As the settlement grows, the zoned areas start to move further outwards to accommodate the development. Whether a settlement is in the middle of a landmass, or on the coast, we still as a species gravitate towards this centric model, and the towns of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are no different, but perhaps we’re missing an opportunity.
The biggest physical impediment to the centric model in the BCP is of course our beautiful coastline. Seven fantastic miles of waterfront running from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head truly is a sight to behold, and is the reason the town of Bournemouth ever existed in the first place, but that was over 200 years ago, and — excuse the pun — time and tide waits for noone.
The coastline of the BCP, fantastic though it is, cuts the traditional centric layout model directly in half. We’re not Hong Kong, building airstrips in the harbour, so we’re hamstrung by the physical layout when applying our traditional urban planning model, but there is a solution.
With the focal point of the BCP being the coastline, and the BCP’s area being almost rectangular in shape, a linear model would be far more suitable for the growth, prosperity and success of the conurbation.
With a linear model the CBD would change from a Bournemouth Town Centre focused layout to include Westbourne, Boscombe and Southbourne as legitimate zones for commercial development. The urban zone would therefore follow the coastline, with the suburban zone doing the same but further inland.
The linear model drastically increases the size and area of the CBD, which would create a cornucopia of opportunities for non-local businesses to locate within the BCP, driving growth and employment opportunities over a broad spectrum of industries. It relaxes the pressure on Bournemouth Town Centre, by not trying to squeeze everything into its small footprint, and gives other, somewhat neglected, areas a fighting chance to shine as bustling commercial hotspots in their own right. In doing so their efforts would support the BCP as a whole to shine as a community, pioneering in all aspects of life, including culture, commerce, technology, sustainability, invention and even a little bit of industry.
One of the best ways to recognise the potential of the BCP is to avoid the historical precedent of the village mentality, which has a micro aspect, and to look at the conurbation from the macro perspective.