High street vacancies on the rise

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The number of shops standing empty across the UK is on the increase latest figures show, but Cornwall is faring better than most.

Latest numbers collected between July and December 2009 and published today from the Local Data Company (LDC), reveal that nationally 12.4% of shops are vacant – an increase of 25% over the previous figure, but the rate of increase is gradually slowing.

One in five shops in town centres in Kent, the Midlands and the north east are empty, with Wolverhampton the worst hit retail centre, with 23.9% of shops unused.

While the number of shops closing in Cornwall is rising, the picture is far brighter than the rest of the UK, and the south west.

Falmouth is bottom of the far south west vacancy league table, with a rate of just 4.5%, while Exeter sits at the top with a rate of 12.5%.

The number of empty shops in Penzance rose from 4.5% in June to 6.4%, while 5.1% and 5.0% of shops remain empty in Newquay and Truro respectively.

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.

Commenting on the figures, 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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