Rivers of barren high streets as one in five shops lies empty across Kent, Midlands and North East.
The decline of Britain’s high streets has continued with one in five shops standing empty across town centres in Kent, the Midlands and the North East.
The latest Local Data Company (LDC) report is previewed Wednesday at the British Property Federation (BPF) Retail Summit ahead of being published on Thursday. It shows vacancies have continued to increase over the last two quarters, although at a lesser rate that before. According to data collected between July and December 2009, 12.4% of shops stand empty across Great Britain. This average figure represents an increase of 25% over previous figure of 10% vacancies from June 2009. The first half of 2009 saw vacancies increase by 100%.
Of the country’s large retail centres, Wolverhampton has been hit the worst. Enoch Powell’s former constituency, where Bank of England chief Mervyn King studied at grammar school has 23.9% of its shops standing empty.
Bradford, Middlesborough and Sheffield follow closely behind while Margate – the Kent seaside town that inspired Turner’s famous paintings of coastal sunsets - tops the table of medium sized centres with 27.2% of shops empty.
Central London has held up well, staying around the national average, while centres on the outskirts of the capital – around Uxbridge and Essex – have dipped below 10%, signaling hopes that the worst is now over.
According to LDC’s survey of over 700 town centres, overall shop vacancy has very nearly doubled in England and Wales since the end of 2008. All regions saw a jump in vacancy reflected in the 2009 mid-year figures, but these rates have moderated significantly in this survey. The northern regions, whose centres dominate the vacancy data, show the highest vacancy rates, with the North East particularly badly hit at 14%. The South and East, including London, saw a 33% increase in vacancy rates in the second half of 2009, with average vacancy at just around 9%.
In total, vacancy rates across the South and East have increased 190% since the peak of the market in September 2007. In the Midlands, the second half of 2009 saw a 46% rise in vacancies while Wales and the South West saw an 18% rise over the same period, with the average now just below 10% in the South West.
Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said:
“The fact of the matter is that Brits now do a lot more shopping over the web, so we’re seeing a fundamental reshaping of high streets. The next government will need to balance cuts in spending with ideas for reinvigorating regions that have suffered from years of underinvestment. This doesn’t mean simply building more shops, but a thorough re-evaluation of what we need and how we take existing empty properties and use them for other things. We must encourage councils to make it easier for people to convert shops and people must accept that we won’t go back to the high streets of yesteryear.”
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