Many High Streets are 'doomed to die'


The High Street is facing the greatest challenge for survival in its history, say experts.

Carrington Post Office

Ghost towns: Recession has decimated High Street traders.

The proportion of shops sitting empty has risen from 12% to 14.5% in a year amid hard times and a dramatic shift in shopping habits. In some once thriving communities more than one in three are boarded up.

Analysts say many High Streets are beyond saving, which means there is a need for a rethink about their futures. Empty shops will have to be replaced by housing and other uses if they are not to become eyesores.

The rise of the supermarkets on greenfield sites and vast self-contained shopping malls with free parking means families no longer visit town centres. At the same time, shoppers are increasingly buying over the internet from traders with no high street outlets.

The shop vacancy figures come from the Local Data Company and reveal the number of empty shops in England is considerably higher in the North and the Midlands.

Almost one in five shops - 19% - in large centres in the North-East, North-West, East Midlands and West Midlands are empty. The figure is 21% in Yorkshire and the Humber region. The highest number of vacancies found was in the once popular resort of Margate, on the Kent coast, at 37.4%.

LDC warned that retailers will come under even more pressure from rising prices and taxes, coupled with falling demand. It said shop vacancies are likely to remain at 'cyclically high levels'.

It added: 'Whichever way you look at it, fundamental changes are taking place in UK retail at the retailer and consumer levels.

'The very fact that ten years ago the majority of a multiple retailer's stores were on a high street but now are migrating into shopping centres and out-of-town shopping parks begs the question of what will fill the high street of 2020 and beyond?'

Liz Peace, of the British Property Federation, said: 'Many high streets will never return to their pre-recession days. The challenge for local authorities is to work with businesses including retailers and landlords to sensibly manage this transition and to be creative in looking for new roles for empty shops.'

The Association of Convenience Stores said planning rules should be changed to protect town centres.

Boarded up shops table