LANDLORDS who continuously refuse to let out their empty high street shops could facer council intervention.

In what could be a boost to the high street, including Bournemouth town centre, the Government has suggested that BCP Council could be a contender for its ‘High Street Rental Auction Programme’ (HSRA). 

Under the pilot scheme, the local authority could step in and offer a lease to a business if the landlord continuously refuses “reasonable” requests. 

Readers have said that one of the main reasons they don’t go to the town centre is because there are so few shops to go to. 

Bournemouth Echo: Empty unit in Bournemouth town centreEmpty unit in Bournemouth town centre

A letter seen by the Echo addressed to council chief executive Graham Farrant, from Cathy Francis, director at places, infrastructure and housing delivery at the Department for Levelling Up, said: “In spring this year the new HSRA regulations will come into effect, giving local authorities new permissive powers to require landlords to rent out persistently vacant commercial properties.  

“Where landlords are uncooperative local authorities will have the power to auction off the lease to new tenants for up to five years.  

“HSRAs will be a dynamic new tool for local authorities to use where persistent commercial vacancy is a problem in their town centres and high streets allowing properties to be more accessible and affordable for tenants.” 

Bournemouth West MP Sir Conor Burns said the suggestion for the area came about following a meeting with Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. 

Bournemouth Echo:

He said: “Everyone understands the complexity and challenges facing the high street and the change in shopping dynamic with the internet and out-of-town. 

“One thing that was becoming a persistent problem was landlords not recognising the changed reality and holding onto the aspiration of rents that were applicable many years ago.” 

He added: “This could potentially do two things: encourage landlords to recognise the reality of the high street and accept reasonable offers. 

“And if they won’t, it will give the local authority an additional tool to try and facilitate new businesses coming into our town centre. 

“It won’t work without cleaning, effective and robust zero-tolerance policing to anti-social behaviour, but it is another small step that we can take to try to rebuild the high street for the modern era.” 

BCP Council declined to comment but said it would be attending an online seminar in February to learn more about the scheme.