05 September 2012 10:28
The number of vacant stores on Britain's high streets has continued to increase, according to new figures. The average vacancy rate rose to 14.6% at the end of June, up from 14.3% six months ago, according to the Local Data Company, but in some centres the figure is much higher, with Margate suffering the highest vacancy rate of 36.5%, while Nottingham was the worst performing big centre with more than 30% of its sites empty.
Ministers have been urged to make it easier for vacant shops to be used for alternative purposes.
British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said: "Our towns face complex structural problems which are not going to be solved by tinkering around the edges. In many places, we need to have a complete re-think about how vacant property could be redeveloped into new uses.
"This will be challenging – and there will inevitably be some further business casualties – but the alternative is a period of steady, inexorable and irreversible decline with unacceptable social consequences."
The report, called Too Many Shops, said the fundamental problems were caused by the economy as consumer spending fell back to 2002 levels and by retailers expanding into too many sites before the financial crisis.
But it warns that changing shopping habits mean many high streets will not return to their past glory once the economy recovers.
All regions have seen an increase over the past year apart from London, which has fallen to 10.1%.
Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: "At worst, it is about managing decline to enable alternative uses for a centre to take over and, at best, it is maintaining positive trends in the face of increasingly fierce competition and costs."