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Bournemouth council urged to make absent landlords sell up
POKESDOWN residents are hoping Bournemouth Council will help them force absent landlords to sell the area’s empty shops.
Members of the local community forum say they have the funds to buy the final five vacant shops, all in Christchurch Road, and a waiting list of entrepreneurs keen to move in.
The forum’s plan would involve investors working with the council to buy the properties, using the latter’s compulsory purchase powers, after which they can be restored and occupied.
Forum member Caroline Read said: “The only empty shops left now are those where we can’t contact the landlord.
“It is not fair on other businesses because they let these buildings get into a state, while we have investors ready to buy the properties at market rates and a waiting list of people who want to move in.
“We have been working with the enforcement team at the council, who have been brilliant at tracking down landlords and getting renovation work done, but they can only go so far as there isn’t much money around.”
Pam Ruthvan said the forum has helped fill more than 40 empty shops in Pokesdown over the last three years, often with vintage or upmarket second-hand stores.
She said shops such as Wild Antiques, which opened in a vacant shop just before Christmas, are reinvigorating the area’s old identity as an antiques Mecca.
“We have done this all ourselves, we are trying to give Pokesdown its identity back,” she added.
“We want to appeal again to the owners of these shops, please come forward and either sell them to us or restore them and get some tenants in.”
A council spokesman said they were working closely with the forum members to find a solution to the problem.
Leader John Beesley said: “We are looking carefully at national and local planning policy to see if there is a better way of dealing with this issue for the longer term.”
Filling the empties to brighten up Pokesdown
ONE of the Pokesdown shopkeepers backing the forum’s efforts is Darran Styler, whose new IT and web business Dorset Tech opens next week in a previously empty shop on Christchurch Road.
Mr Styler, 41, lived in Roberts Road, around the corner from his new store, for five years until he moved to Muscliff.
He said at least half the stores in the area were vacant when he moved but now, a year later, there were only a handful that remained empty.
“This area has a bad reputation but it really is improving, the shops are getting busier and being looked after,” he said.
“There is a big sense of community in Pokesdown and the wider Boscombe area, which is the main reason I chose to start up my business here.
“And it is not fair for the rest for these few shops to be left empty.
“It doesn’t look good when they fall into disrepair, and it’s not right if there are people like us queuing up to move in.”