HOPES have been raised that four new retailers could be enticed into Weymouth town centre as proposals are being put forward to divide a large empty shop into four smaller premises.

A planning application has been submitted to Dorset Council for dividing up the former Poundstretcher - which occupies the ground floor of numbers 63 - 64 St Mary Street and number 40 St Thomas Street - together with alterations to the shop fronts.

The application comes from a development company Vernice Design. Two of the proposed units would have shop fronts on St Mary Street, with the other two facing St Thomas Street.

The proposals would see the central door on the St Mary Street side replaced with two individual access doors, and a new door on the St Thomas Street side.

The building has been occupied by a succession of 'Pound' brands over the years - it has previously been 99p Stores, Poundland and Poundstore. There was once an entrance onto St Thomas Street, however this was closed off around 2018.

Dorset Echo: Once upon a time it operated as Poundland - now on New Bond StreetOnce upon a time it operated as Poundland - now on New Bond Street

The applicants say the proposals "would provide a viable new use for this retail unit with a net gain of three retail units that would also provide active frontages to both streets, providing a more attractive and convenient shopping environment."

They say the internal layout will not be drastically changed - and that the main change would be the removal of a lift.

A spokesman for Design Studio Architects, acting on behalf of the applicant, said: "The development is respectful and will complement the existing area. Given the importance of the existing building and its surroundings, the proposal seeks to keep the impact on the elevations to a minimum, whilst providing the needed subdivision of the existing shop.

Dorset Echo: The entrance onto St Mary Street was closed off to the public circa 2018 The entrance onto St Mary Street was closed off to the public circa 2018

"The proposed works will have a positive effect on the local economy, by providing extra retail units to this exciting and dynamic area."

The property is located within a conservation area, as most of Weymouth town centre and surroundings are areas of special architectural or historic interest. While the building itself is not listed, there are many surrounding buildings which are Grade II listed.

Craig Oakes, president of Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce, said it is an "interesting" proposal, and hopes businesses will be enticed.

"It will depend if the rateable value of the four shops is less for each retailer," he said. "It may well entice a couple of businesses into the more expensive St Mary Street side if the rate and rents are more affordable.

"With regards to St Thomas Street, this is currently fluctuating between being full and some units being empty. Time will tell if the previous Iceland unit will get taken up - another larger unit to fill."

He added: "The town centre as a whole will definitely need to go through some major changes to survive - this is true of the national scene, not just Weymouth."