A CHANGE in shopping habits and the ongoing pandemic has been blamed for the large number of shops in Boscombe closing their doors for good.

On the 0.8 mile stretch of Christchurch Road, between Pokesdown Station and the McDonald's restaurant in Boscombe, some 40 commercial units were found to be empty.

Ward Councillor for Boscombe East & Pokesdown Andy Jones said: “I know from having spoken to a number of business owners along Christchurch Road that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been stark, with many asking for information on government grants that have been administered by the council.

“I am in no doubt that although this help has been very much welcomed, that sadly it has not been enough to prevent some closing their doors permanently.

“That coupled, of course, with many more people shopping online in recent years which has also taken its toll on the physical high street as we know it.”

This comes soon after Bournemouth has secured almost £22 million of government funding to regenerate Boscombe’s high street.

The project, to be financed by the government's Town Deal fund, will see the removal of the Sovereign Centre, Centenary Way and existing bus station.

In its place will be a focal mixed-use building and market square to be used for public events and outdoor cafes.

However, the project focusses on the pedestrianised area of the street, whilst no schemes have been suggested for the rest of Christchurch Road.

Cllr Jones hopes that the redevelopment venture, and the subsequent improvements to travel links, will help to draw new businesses to the area and create a new identity for the area.

He added: “The proposals for regeneration in Boscombe, supported by the governments Towns Fund to create a new urban neighbourhood, will give an impetus to the area and will create opportunities for new retailers and businesses to take space and thus secure the future of the area.

“Exciting times ahead, much to look forward to.”

Fellow ward councillor George Farquyhar said: “My initial thoughts is there is no one silver bullet nor one solution that can be imposed but it should be supported to grow organically from the community.

The primary mission statement, to my mind, of this new business community forum needs to be to help and encourage with best practice those that are here already and to attract like-minded small businesses to the area.

“Thus investing in the community by employing locally, serving the needs of the community and visitors alike.”