BOURNEMOUTH’S former Marks & Spencer building could be replaced with a new building containing a “significant” number of homes.

THAT Group – which has invested millions in the town’s Hilton hotels and the Daily Echo building – held consultation meetings yesterday about the future of the Commercial Road site.

Afterwards, it said it was looking at a “large volume lifestyle residential” scheme for the site. There could be retail and leisure on the ground floor fronting Commercial Road, with “significant development” above.

THAT Group believes a residential development could boost the town centre by increasing footfall all day.

Peter Tisdale, chief executive of THAT Group, said: after the consultation with town censigntre stakeholders: “Today was a positive start.

“There was an overwhelming consensus that something needs to be done and that the concept of high quality residential in such a central site deserves support.

“We’re encouraged with the start we’ve made and are looking forward to bringing something forward soonest to support efforts to make a positive impact on the area.”

The idea could “potentially” involve demolishing the existing building and replacing it.

Marks & Spencer closed its town centre store in 2018 after 88 years of trading. The building has been empty ever since and footfall in Commercial Road is thought to have dropped significantly.

Bournemouth town centre faces the prospect of another large empty building with the planned closure of Beales’ flagship store in Old Christchurch Road. The Beales building is on the market for offers of at least £11million, with agents advertising the opportunity to “create a new landmark development”.

The department store chain’s chief executive, Tony Brown, has accused planners of putting too many “hurdles” in the way of a development which would keep Beales on a reduced number of floors.