The Bayside/FuturePlaces story…a reminder. Letter to the editor

Photo by Alex Elena Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: Bayside Restaurant was funded by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council, ostensibly to pilot the feasibility of beachfront eateries. It was open on the seafront, between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers, for just one month in August 2022. From the start, it was dogged with controversy, first about the poor quality of service and menu, then about the £176,000 cost of the whole undertaking. ‘FuturePlaces’ is an ‘urban regeneration company’ set up by BCP Council in 2021 to help revitalise the local area.

Dear Editor,

I’m a very concerned resident of Poole/BCP council. As reported really well by you on many occasions, BCP council are beyond broken. With local elections only a few days away and the huge Conservative following here in Poole, I’m very concerned that on May 5 we will simply be continuing with this current unscrupulous leadership.. I’m saying this as a former Conservative voter – never again! 

There are many, many terrible stories out there about this council, but I’ve yet to find one that has dug deeper into the BCP Bayside Restaurant saga, so I had a little dig around and am astounded and disgusted at what I’ve come to realise about the whole affair.

BCP Council officially announced it was setting up Bayside beach restaurant in the summer of 2022. Since then, Phil Broadhead (then deputy leader of the council) and his faithful portfolio holder for culture, Beverly Dunlop, have insisted that the restaurant was being set up as a pilot for fine dining, for the ultimate good of BCP residents.

In the five weeks that Bayside was open, it managed to lose £176,000. The true figure could be much higher. Many questions have been asked about this failed restaurant, but no clear answers have been forthcoming. The facts are hidden – no business case or fully disclosed financial details are available, due to ‘commercial sensitivity’. According to Councillor Dunlop, there were several unpredictable factors that led to the financial loss, but none have been detailed.

This lack of transparency raises concerns that the pilot was nothing more than a cover for Broadhead’s cronies at FuturePlaces (FP) to bag themselves a freebie at the Bournemouth Air Festival, using council taxpayers’ money. Suspicions are aroused because FP directors had previously requested the use of a hospitality venue for the Festival. Perhaps they wanted to impress investors and treat them to a free day of hospitality? All at taxpayers’ expense, of course.

The fact is that the restaurant was used through its first four weeks by members of the public as well as private events, but then closed completely to the public, although it remained in use for the four days of the air show.

The FP Board minutes from January 2022, and over a period of four consecutive meetings, clearly show the FP directors requesting and discussing a hospitality venue for the air festival. This was well before Bayside restaurant came about. Broadhead pulled out all the stops for his friends at FP: by March 2022, the hospitality licence had been applied for, and Slick Events Ltd had been chosen to run this month-long ‘pop-up’ facility, to please FuturePlaces directors.

Others have questioned the details of the arrangement, noting that Slick Events listed the venue as ‘Bournemouth Air Festival Venue’ on their website, and not as ‘Bayside Restaurant’. Broadhead even tweeted out images of himself entertaining at the restaurant.

Perhaps too many free lunches and bottles of bubbly were given away in the heat and excitement of the grand, canopied restaurant; whatever the reason, around £176,000 of council tax money was lost through this venture. Some would say, “Well, that’s not such a huge figure” – but tell that to the 8,000 children and their families who are classed as living in absolute poverty under BCP council. Tell that to the children’s services which, under this council, are in special measures.

The true cost goes beyond the negative ripple-effect of those misused funds. The lack of transparency has further undermined trust in those elected to serve their community, and has left a distinct whiff of corruption in the air…

Jackie Delahunty

You can access the FuturePlaces minutes here.

The following are extracts referring specifically to the Air Festival:

  • Jan 2022 – ‘Projects and events planned for Q2 and beyond, including a focus on Homes England and Investor outreach, the potential for the Bournemouth Air Festival to be used as a platform for levelling up and municipal stewardship. PB agreed to consider how this could be structured. ACTION’
  • March 2022 – ‘The Bournemouth Air Show would be used as an opportunity for speaking to potential investors.’
  • May 2022 – ‘Bournemouth Air Show provides a significant opportunity to raise the Company profile with potential investors.’
  • July 2022 – ‘Bournemouth Air Show would be used to showcase FuturePlaces sites to potential investors and partners.’