SHOP owners are hoping an influx of new businesses will give a Weymouth shopping centre a new lease of life.

The Colwell Shopping Centre in School Street has seen three new shops open in the past couple of months.

Businesses that have opened include Not Just Poodles, Marsal’s Dippy Donuts, and Balloon Frenzy.

The opening of new shops has coincided with the borough council’s latest move to reduce empty retail premises in Weymouth and Portland. Councillors have agreed to introduce a Business Rate Reoccupation Relief to encourage businesses to move into premises empty for more than 12 months.

Out of 686 retail shops in the borough, 85 of them are currently empty, with 34 having been empty for over a year.

Vanessa White set up Not Just Poodles, a dog grooming business, four weeks ago.

She said: “The rents are low. I just like it in here.

“There are all different shops opening up now, so I think it’s a really good place to be. If it’s raining outside then customers can sit here and wait until it stops.”

A new cafe called Only Food and Sauces will open soon.

Sally Hopgood, who opened Marsal’s Dippy Donuts eight weeks ago, said they would try to make the centre a ‘foody area’.

She said: “We are going to get more tables and chairs and just make it pleasant for people to come in and eat.”

Horacio Alves is in the process of setting up Taste of Portugal, which will be open in six to eight weeks. He said: “It was the cheapest place to start a new business.”

The shopping centre’s other shops include Sweeties of Weymouth, TI-Jay, MK Models, On The Line Tattoos, Nailed It, Mama’s South African Shop, Phone Zone and the forthcoming Taste of Portugal.

Dave Stevens, centre manager, said business as a whole had improved at the centre. He said: “People living in Weymouth think the Colwell Centre is closed or closing. It has got no intention of closing. There’s no way.”