POOLE town centre could “outshine” Bournemouth within a year despite the imminent closure of its Marks & Spencer, it has been claimed.

Tony Brown, boss of the company which revived Beales in the Dolphin Centre, said he was optimistic about Poole’s future.

Landlord Legal & General has been encouraging new business into the area, providing two years without rent or rates for start-ups in the Kingland parade of shops.

Meanwhile, BCP Council has targeted the old town and Quay areas for generation under its ‘Big Plan’ initiative, presided over by its new FuturePlaces company.

Tony Brown, who led the revival of the Beales brand name as chief executive of New Start 2020, said: “I think Poole will outshine Bournemouth within a year if the town centre plans and council plans come to fruition.”

M&S is set to close its branch in the Dolphin Shopping Centre in January after more than 50 years.

The centre’s manager, John Grinnell, has said he is “disappointed” but that it would create an opportunity for other retailers.

Mr Brown said he was “quite relaxed” about the loss of M&S. “I think the Dolphin Centre have got plans for it. They didn’t seem too concerned,” he said.

Legal & General’s plans for the Dolphin Centre and Kingland earned attention earlier this year in a New York Times story about the future of the high street.

The Quay end of the high street has seen a crop of new independent businesses, with hospitality venues able to put tables outside while the road was closed to traffic in the summer.

Mr Brown said attention was needed to the middle section of the high street.

“The main focus needs to be the centre of the high street, once you get past the railway line,” he said.

“Once the public realm is sorted out, I think things will come together.”

Cllr Phil Broadhead, deputy leader of BCP Council, said of the M&S closure: “When you look at one of those business staples going, what comes next is often better.”

He added: “It does feel like we’re on the cusp of a new future for Poole High Street.

He said the town’s high street was “working quite well”.

“There’s a temptation to say we need something in the middle but the model is quite a well-functioning high street,” he said.

He said the town now offered a wide range of uses, encompassing an NHS clinic in Beales and parkour and climbing in the former sports centre as well as shopping. 

“Rather than it just being a vanilla shopping centre it’s become a destination for a whole host of things. I think it’s a perfect model of what the future of the high street can and should look like," he added.