A FIRM of property agents based in Poole say claims the town's high street is declining are "misleading" – and shops are still being let.

Agents at chartered surveyors Sibbett Gregory penned a letter to the Daily Echo after a number of articles highlighting the decline of the high street appeared.

In the most recent, we quoted shoppers who said Poole is becoming a "ghost town". But the firm says 'consistently negative' articles on "vacant units" don't reflect the true situation.

The letter reads: "Poole High Street is far from a ‘ghost town’.

"In the past three months, our agency alone has let four High Street shops, bringing new occupiers into the town including Mountain Warehouse, among others.

"The past few years have seen various other new retailers come to the town while at the Dolphin Centre, H&M, Smiggle, JD Sports and most recently Muffin Break have opened.

"Furthermore, retailers are still making enquiries about opening shops in Poole.

"Many of the comments have pointed to high rents as being the cause of decline. This is simply not the case.

"By way of an example, of the four lettings we have recently concluded, on average the agreed annual rents are around 40 per cent lower than the rents the previous occupiers were paying.

"In some cases, the rents have halved."

In one article, shoppers told us the decline of the high street – as they see it – began when McDonald's and Burger King left in 2017.

But the agents say: "These occupiers have been replaced by The Entertainer and Coffee#1 respectively, both excellent additions to the town."

Photographs highlighting vacancies in Kingland Crescent also do not truly represent the situation in Poole, they said.

"The owners of Kingland Crescent (Legal and General) have been preparing this area for redevelopment as part of their proposed cinema and restaurant scheme," they said.

"Meanwhile, the units on Kingland Road form part of an ownership which includes the former Natwest office.

"The owners are seeking to comprehensively redevelop this site and have submitted a planning application for a substantial mixed use scheme."

The Daily Echo has reported on plans for a cinema complex. Work was due to begin in late 2018. However, nothing has yet started, and the paper has been unable to confirm further details of when work might begin with either the Dolphin Centre or Empire Cinema.

"As a firm, we are under no illusions as to the challenges the High Street faces," Sibbett Gregory agents said.

"Over the past 10 years, the retail market has seen a major structural change. The influence of online shopping, the attractiveness of out of town retailing and a change in consumer behaviour has led to an oversupply of retail accommodation in town centres across the country. Poole is no different. Business rates also remain exceptionally high and in secondary areas are now hugely out of sync with rental values.

"Nonetheless, much can be done to help improve the retail offer in Poole.

"Tackling anti-social behaviour, improving the public realm, promoting town centre events and drastically improving the weekly market are all issues which BCP Council and local stakeholders should be prioritising.

"Improving the perception of Poole is also a key factor in helping to attract new occupiers."