A transformative programme to give Poole High Street a new lease of life has reached its conclusion with an exhibition to celebrate its successes.

Poole High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) was established in 2020 as a four-year project to protect and enhance historical assets and making the town centre more attractive for residents, businesses, and visitors.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council delivered the £1.25 million improvement programme in partnership with Historic England and funding from the Poole Business Improvement District (BID).

An exhibition to celebrate the achievements of HAZ is taking place from Saturday 23 March to Thursday 28 March in the Gather Space at The Poole Dolphin Centre.

These include the 20sqm mural on the corner of 58 High Street and New Orchard, commemorating the work of marine biologist and zoologist Henry Gosse, who grew up in Poole.

Installed in 2022 the artwork features a gigantic fish swimming in a multi-colour other worldly marine world.

Other successes include a vibrant cultural programme, which included “Salt: A Community Play for Poole” performed at Lighthouse, Poole and a special community concert featuring music co-created by members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and two local schools in partnership with Soundstorm.

Caroline Peach, Head of Strategic Planning, BCP Council said: “The HAZ project has provided much needed investment into the local Poole Old Town community, boosting participation in cultural activity and improving the quality and condition of the buildings and general environment.

“Over the course of the last four years, 16 High Street projects received HAZ grants, 600 school children have attended workshops,1605 people watched the SALT play at Lighthouse, Poole and 82 wall mounted and column Windsor lanterns have been installed resulting in a 74% reduction in energy use.

“With our partners at Historic England, Scaplens Court is being remodelled and public access improved. Together with Poole BID, we are really looking forward to continuing to work closely with the Poole community to develop, nurture and care for the heritage of Poole Old Town for years to come.”

The exhibition, open 12 noon to 3.00pm each day, will showcase all the elements of the HAZ project, with art, videos, photographs and costumes kindly donated by Arts University Bournemouth, from live performances of the SALT community play.

There is also the opportunity to help shape the high street for the future with an “ideas” map in place for the public to play with.

Improving the facades of listed and other important buildings on the High Street has been a major part of HAZ.

Sixteen shopfront and signage projects have been completed at various addresses along the High Street and on New Orchard and Grand Parade.

These include Cinnamon House, Poole Museum’s atrium and Cornmarket House, while businesses such as Truly Scrumptious, Italian Diva, the Thai Pantry and many others have all benefitted from the HAZ initiative.

A vibrant community cultural programme has run alongside the structural and decorative schedule of work and will feature in the exhibition.

The production of SALT saw over 100 members of the local community taking part in the performance or working hard behind the scenes to create this extraordinary event.

In the public realm, at Poole Museum, New Purbeck stone paving has been laid to link the area between the museum and Scaplen’s Court and this will be extended to improve the paving outside the main entrance, providing easy access for everyone.”

Works are ongoing to repair the granite surfacing in Thames Street and the adjacent pavement outside Custom House.

Ross Simmonds, Historic England’s Head of Region in the South West said: “This exhibition is a great way to celebrate the end of our four-year High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme in Poole. We want our high streets to last.

“This means reimagining a new future for them, so they remain at the heart of communities. This scheme has proven that heritage-led regeneration can unlock a new, positive future for our high streets.

“We are very grateful to our partners and the community for their help in the regeneration of 16 shopfronts on Poole’s high street including the renovation of Grade I listed medieval former merchants house Scaplen’ Court.

“I have also witnessed with joy the power of bringing people together on our high streets through celebratory cultural events. These places deserve a future.”

The Haz project has successfully repaired and re-vitalised the historic environment in Poole, revealed hidden stories through a diverse cultural programme, supported sympathetic development to the exterior of buildings and has created a legacy for the future care of the area.

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