POOLE'S Ashley Road could lose even more businesses unless more money is invested quickly, shoppers fear.

The Daily Echo counted 11 empty units along the length of the thoroughfare this week, which doesn't include the imminent closure of Specialist Motor Components (SMC) Ltd which has been a fixture on Ashley Road for decades.

Meanwhile, in a bid to address complaints from residents and retailers, BCP Council says it is organising monthly meetings with traders, councillors and police to tackle "antisocial behaviour which is impacting on the health of the area."

Jubilee Road resident and local campaigner Jeff Williams believes the empty units have a "huge knock-on domino effect on general custom" along the street.

"Many will point to the development of the internet and buying online," he said. "This is certainly true, it has impacted hugely on high streets. Also the very high levels of rent, and council rates.

"But above that, and having worked with traders to launch high street improvements, local authorities have a huge amount to answer for when it comes to appalling management of high streets."

Mr Williams argues the closure of the public toilets at Jubilee Road, which were demolished in 2015, had a huge negative impact from which Ashley Road has has never fully recovered.

He added: "Local authorities should be doing vastly more to support our high streets – summer floral displays, well maintained car-parks and landscape, Christmas events, and, of course, providing public toilets.

"This is where far more council funding should be directed, not in superlative officer and councillor packages."

However, for many the empty units are simply a reflection of the current retail climate.

Shopper Keith Vaughan said: "There are a few empty shops but I would argue not as many in many other parts of the country.

"All in all, this is still quite a vibrant area. Waitrose shows no sign of leaving, and you have some great local fruit and vegetable and a butchers.

"Lots of shops close and new ones come."

Another shopper told the Daily Echo: "It is simple, if you want more units taken up, drop the business rates. These smaller guys cannot compete with the bigger companies and the online giants."

BCP Council cabinet member for regeneration and culture Cllr Mark Howell said the authority is committed to increasing support for local centres in the BCP Council area including Ashley Road.

He added: "Often there are no obvious solutions, and progress involves developing partnerships with local businesses and community organisations instead of major regeneration interventions.

"We are organising monthly meetings with the traders, residents, ward councillors and police to understand economic challenges and address the antisocial behaviour which is impacting on the health of the area.

"We are also helping the traders to bid for the funding of a Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS) officer for Ashley Road to help address anti-social behaviour.”