Vacant Shops Big Problem and the Community Needs to Help Fill Them

Stores closing down and leaving vacant property is slowing yet little recovery seen.

Stores closing down and leaving vacant property is slowing yet little recovery seen.

The economic recovery will be “choppy” is what Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, said today. Retail shops are still not feeling the recovery nor are those leasing or selling property to businesses. While the number of property vacancies due to business closings has slowed there is yet to be a pickup in the recovery direction. Only a small amount has shown improvement according to a new study.

The worst affected area in the UK is Blackpool, where 30 per cent of shops are unoccupied. Bristol stands at about one half of that amount. According to the Local Data Company (LDC) study the vacancy rates for Bath showed a small improvement with fewer vacancies.

There were 63 large town centres studied across the UK in the study by LDC. Ten of the 63 showed an improvement in the last six months. Some of the areas with improvements were Bath, Guildford, central London, Cardiff, and Liverpool. However if 10 of the 63 showed improvements, that leaves 53 that did not.

A spokesman for the LDC study said: “This data shows vacancy increasing in a majority of centres and, more worryingly, particularly in those centres where the budget and job cuts proposed for the public sector will begin to bite.

“Combined with the increase in VAT in January, this will likely be a double blow for the big retail centres in the North and Midlands particularly.”

Phil Hurst, a member of the New Economics Foundation think tank, said: “Empty shops are a symptom of a much wider problem, which is the slow destruction of our town centres. The recession has hastened the demise of many areas and led to a spiral of decline that affects everyone living nearby.

“But it really doesn’t have to be this way and we would call on people to stop complaining and instead get themselves involved in the regeneration of their own communities.”

Stephen Robertson, director general of trade body British Retail Consortium commented: “Many of the problems of town centres have more fundamental causes than simply the economic slowdown and they will not disappear just because an economic recovery is underway.

“High street shops are often battling to pay big bills for business rates and rents, struggling with parking and access difficulties, as well as coping with a general failure to manage and invest in the area.

“They are the heart of local communities and economies, providing jobs and essential services. Their future success cannot be left to chance.”

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