'GREEDY landlords and estate agents' are to blame for the 15 empty shops found within just 0.1 of a mile in Bournemouth town centre, a leading councillor has said.

Former mayor Cllr Bob Chapman spoke out after more than a dozen empty units were snapped by a Daily Echo photographer on Friday.

The shops lie between Hearnes estate agents at 122 Old Christchurch Road and Greggs at 60 Old Christchurch Road - a distance of just 161 metres.

Cllr Chapman said: "The rents being asked for many of these units are quite ridiculous.

"It's not just that traders can't make a living, it's that they can't survive if they're paying something like £70,000 a year in rent, and that's before you consider rates.

"There are other charges too when one runs a business.

"It's just not viable anymore."

He said "one or two" landlords in the town were particularly to blame, although they are "aided and abetted by some estate agents".

"They're asking for crazy money," he said.

"You'd have to make £1,000 profit in your business every month just to get by.

"It's not just rents and rates. You have to think about staffing levels, electricity, heating.

"The problem is these greedy landlords."

His colleague Cllr Dave Smith said: "It's all about the rents some landlords are changing.

"In my opinion, the government needs to review business rates too.

"We need an entirely different system of taxing retail units."

As reported in the Echo in September, the owner of the Real Eating Company said she cannot remember seeing so many empty shops in Bournemouth.

Helena Hudson said: “I want to see Bournemouth thrive and flourish and not just sit back on our heels when we get some of these big retailers closing down for whatever reason."

Empty shops in Old Christchurch Road will be fitted with window vinyls promoting Bournemouth and its retail offering.