BOURNEMOUTH council has backed down on its objection to another restaurant in a prime town centre shopping area.

Back in June, clothing store Alfa Menswear reapplied to change the use of its premises in Westover Road to allow for a restaurant or café, having had a similar bid rejected by borough planners last year.

Manager Andy Newland said the store had to move closer to Old Christchurch Road to remain viable, while owner Nihad Obagi said "overheads, punitive rent and rates", an increase in parking charges and the closure of the cinemas had left the "supposed Bond Street of Bournemouth" littered with empty units.

Despite dismissing the proposal last year on the grounds that the loss of further retail space was unacceptable, council planning officers have now agreed that "we need to balance concern about the loss of a retail unit with the desire to avoid long term vacancies".

A report by planning officer Steve Davies states: "Since the refusal of permission, we are aware that there are other empty units along Westover Road, most notably the recent closure of Russell and Bromley, the cinemas are still empty and the future mixed-use redevelopment envisaged under the Policy A29 is uncertain at present.

"In addition, across the wider town centre Marks and Spencer has closed, and we are aware that the House of Fraser is to close, both of which are introducing a significant amount of retail space onto the market."

Policy A29 covers council aspirations for the two empty cinema buildings and the former ice rink between them. The borough wants any development to ideally incorporate the whole site with a mixed-use scheme "that primarily comprises of retail uses".

The report, granting change of use permission, says leaving the unit empty would "have a detrimental impact on the vitality, attractiveness and viability of the town centre".