A NEW coffee shop could open in the empty Boots store in Bournemouth town centre.

Esquire's Coffee, a Canadian chain with 38 stores across the UK, has applied for permission to open in the former chemist in Old Christchurch Road.

It is just a stone's throw from Costa Coffee and Caffè Nero.

The small Boots store closed last year.

A statement from planning agent Ken Parke Planning Consultants on behalf of the applicant, Beermount Ltd, said: "While previously the lower half of this middle section was retail and the top half A2/A3 uses, there has been a gradual change over the past decade as commercial unit availability and viability has generally been changing.

"There is now a mix of retail, coffee and snack outlets, and more specialised uses."

And addressing the amount of empty units along that stretch of the town centre, the statement adds: "The site is the first unit on the south side of the road leading down to The Square...where

the loss of retail at ground level is resisted.

"However, there is a growing number of ground floor units which have become vacant and lend towards a less vibrant and tired street-scene."

The application is asking for permission to change the shop front and create an outdoor seating area for 20 people.

As reported by the Daily Echo, there are more than 20 empty units on Old Christchurch Road alone.

Last month, Bournemouth council's new business champion, Cllr Nigel Hedges said the flexibility of temporary installations should be explored further to make use of empty units.

"Instead of having a high street that looks like a boxer's smile, with all the missing teeth, we could have a Christmas lights that are on a different phase, with different shops at various times with these temporary retail installations."