High streets ‘may never return to what they were’

Mutiny Festival brought over �2m to the local economy Picture: Paul Windsor

Mutiny Festival brings £2.7m into Portsmouth economy

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THE number of shop vacancies is continuing to rise, with experts predicting some high streets will never return to their pre-recession days.

Town centre vacancy rates in south Hampshire stood at just over 12 per cent at the end of 2010, according to the Local Data Company (LDC). Nationally, it was about 14 per cent.

The report claims that the many changes taking place in British retailing have left the high street shop facing ‘its greatest challenge for survival in its history’.

The study has revealed a significant North-South divide, with northern and midland regions well above the national average with a 16.5 per cent vacancy rate.

The report said retailers were set to face increasing prices, raised taxes and falling demand this year, with vacancies already at ‘high levels’.

The report adds: ‘If it increases further, a legitimate question should be whether it will ever fall back to the low levels seen in the thriving pre-recession times.’

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: ‘The sad reality is that the number of vacant shops are increasing with certain areas of the country severely impacted and unlikely to recover. These high streets will never revert back to what they once were and so the composition of our town centres needs to change to reflect modern shopping needs.’

Liz Peace, head of the British Property Federation, added: ‘Many high streets will never return to their pre-recession days and, given the structural nature of these changes, 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 and uses for empty shops.’