The portrait of the Borough of Poole (1999)
Authors: Mark Bobe, Louis Shurmer-Smith


The most westerly of the members of the South Coast Metropole, the District of Poole is located within the county of Dorset although since April 1st 1997 it has been a unitary authority. As with its adjacent member authority, Bournemouth, it is placed in the South West Region of England. The town of Poole is located on the Northern shore of a vast tidal harbour which covers approximately 64 square kilometres. This harbour is extensively used by yachtsmen and other water sports enthusiasts and remains a commercial harbour for cross-channel traffic and British coastal shipping.

Over recent years the town has seen marked expansion to the East of the old town centre as new residential suburbs have been added. Brownsea Island in the harbour is a wildlife sanctuary and run, on behalf of the nation, by the National Trust. Economically Poole is very diverse with a mix of engineering and technology companies and an extensive tourist sector.



Brownsea Island, Poole – Robert Linsdell, 2010 – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr


Poole Borough Council administers an area of 74.64 square kilometres (Ordnance Survey, 1992) containing 141 500 people (Registrar Generals Home Population Estimates, Mid-1998). The population of the borough has grown by approximately 32 per cent since 1971 (Census of Population 1971; Registrar Generals Home Population Estimates, Mid-1998) with fairly consistent growth rates of approximately 10 per cent every 10 years.

The economy of Poole is dominated by employment within the service sector with local employment being dominated by distribution, hotels and restaurants accounting for 23.6 per cent of local employment (Census of Employment 1997). Overall service sector employment accounts for 72.6 per cent of local employment with public administration, education and health and banking, finance and insurance accounting for 23.5 and 16.7 per cent of the total respectively. Poole has a strong manufacturing sector which accounts for 22.2 per cent of all local employment, primary activities account for only 1.3 per cent of total employment.

Poole is somewhat unique amongst the South Coast Metropole members in having a substantial area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) within its boundaries. Poole Harbour has an area of approximately 39 square kilometres and enjoys a degree of environmental protection.



Poole Harbour © 2014 National Coastal Tourism Academy


Bournemouth and Poole lie immediately adjacent to one another, their town centres being only seven miles apart. Whilst administratively separate the economies of the two boroughs are tightly knitted together and for business and economic activity it is difficult to separate the two in a meaningful fashion. The importance of manufacturing activity to Poole is directly attributable to a historical legacy of industrialisation and the presence of the port.

So close are the links between the two local economies that in 1998 the two councils developed AA joint strategic approach to economic development in Bournemouth and Poole. The strategic approach includes cooperation on economic research and information, competitive business initiatives, promotion of the conurbation, work on physical infrastructure, the development of people and their skills, cooperation on tourism and Europe. The objectives are to be achieved by working together in partnerships with other areas and agencies such as Regional Development Agencies, the Central South Economic Alliance, the South Coast Metropole and many other organisations.



Panorama of Poole town centre – Barret Bonden, 2008 – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

The local economy

Economic growth in the conurbation has been forecast to mirror that of the UK as whole due to the concentration of growth sector companies in the area and the fact that the economic drivers for the area correlate well with those for the nation as a whole (Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole, 1998). In terms of value added business and finance dominate the output of the area (29.23 per cent) closely followed by manufacturing (17.87 per cent) and the public sector (14.5 per cent) although there is a nebulous category of enterprises in the other sectors category that contributes 30.18 per cent to the total output of the area (LEFM Value Added, 1997; Bournemouth Borough Council and Borough of Poole, 1998).

The competitiveness of enterprises in the conurbation, especially in expanding global market places, is seen as problematic, average manufacturing productivity is low. Reasons for this relatively low productivity are varied although the area is host to significant amounts of research and development activity which is not attributed to production and major companies in the region tend not to source components locally which depresses the potential market for SMEs.