EXPENSIVE car parks and high business rates are making it hard for Bournemouth’s shops to compete with the internet and out-of-town malls.

That was the complaint from traders after House of Fraser became the latest big retailer to announce store closures.

The former Dingles and Brights of Bournemouth store in Old Christchurch Road is among 31 House of Frasers earmarked for closure.

Liz Josey, co-owner of Sunrise Organics in St Michael’s Road, said her shop was exempt from business rates because of its size and location.

“If we had to pay business rates, the business wouldn’t survive,” she said.

“As far as House of Fraser goes, it’s very sad, but I think the main problem in Bournemouth is parking costs. We have an hour’s parking outside our shop but parking charges in Bournemouth are extortionate.

“If we lose the big shops from the centre, we lose the reasons for people to come. M&S and House of Fraser, two massive names, have gone. What reason have people got to come to Bournemouth town centre?”

Dawn Smith, manager at the jeweller Goldsmiths in Old Christchurch Road, said: “Although our business is doing very well, footfall has fallen noticeably recently and this is obviously impacting on businesses.

“With Castlepoint so close by that has an affect with a lot of people drawn away from the town centre and rent is very high.

“Parking charges are also high and we really need the council to look at ways to draw people back into the high street.”

Cllr Nigel Hedges, who runs a town centre business and is Bournemouth council’s business champion, said: “We constantly review our parking charges and we are absolutely adamant that we are the cheapest place in the South West for shoppers.

“Charges are necessary for us to be able keep car parks maintained and serviceable.

“Some of the charges at car parks in other places make us look like a bargain.”

Marcus Andrews of property specialist Goadsby said business rates were a problem for many businesses. He said the procedure for appealing rates bills was so complex that many gave up.

Official figures suggest retailers were denied rate reductions worth £584million for the 2017-18 financial year because of the way a rate relief scheme was being phased in.

“Local economies are struggling, so ratepayers need to benefit from the full reduction immediately on this property tax,” he said.

Lucinda Coleman, business recovery partner for PKF Francis Clark – which has offices in Poole and New Milton – said: “The growth of online retailing continues to have a huge impact on old-style retailers which face large property costs for their high street stores.”

She was concerned that company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) – the method used by several retailers to cut their rent bills – left landlords “disempowered and aggrieved”.

“Landlords, often institutional investors and pension funds, are crying foul, believing that they are collectively being treated unfairly and that the threat of a CVA can be used to pressure them into accepting disadvantageous changes to their investments,” she said.

“They also point out that CVAs are unfair to retailers who do not do CVAs – they are at a competitive disadvantage. The government is being asked to conduct an urgent review of the CVA procedure.”