I WAS shocked to witness the accelerating rate of retail space vacancy on the pedestrianised section of Old Christchurch Road. This also seems to be compounded with exceptionally high vacancy rates on Westover Road.

This phenomenon, allied with high vagrancy and street begging, is resulting in an atmosphere which questions whether I wish to continue to be a resident in Bournemouth. If I, as a resident question this then surely anyone considering moving to this area would most certainly be deterred.

Given the council’s commitment to redeveloping the town centre surely this situation needs to be treated as an emerging emergency with a plan to tackle this.

Clearly it is impossible for many retailers to remain profitable due to excessively high rent and rates. The council needs to take control of this situation by purchasing vacant property and investing in retail space in selected “high value” areas with the town centre. Then by setting rents at a level affordable to sustain a healthy high street economy, the ambiance and desirability of the town centre as a destination will be significantly enhanced.

The footfall within the town centre appears to be good. The present situation appears to have arisen as a result of simple economics which surely can be overcome by investment and innovation by the council. Otherwise the town centre is in real danger of turning into a desolate no-go zone.

MARK JONES, Leven Avenue, Bournemouth