Burnley ‘doing well’ in stemming empty shops
9:00pm Thursday 6th September 2012 in News
BURNLEY town centre is bucking the national and regional trend by filling more empty shops, according to a controversial survey.
The Local Data Company’s figures show the number of vacant town centre retail premises fell from 19.2 per cent at the end of 2010 to 17.7 per cent in June this year.
In June 2009 they estimated the vacancy rate in Burnley as 17.4 per cent.
This compares with a national rise in empty shops in UK town centres from 14.3 per cent to 14.6 per cent and an increase in the North West from 19.7 per cent to 20.1 per cent.
Burnley’s figure contrasts sharply with Blackburn where LDC says in the 18 months to June the vacancy rate has risen from 25.5 per cent to 27.7 per cent which is contested by the borough which claims the true figure is 11.2 per cent.
Burnley’s own estimate is a shop vacancy rate of 15.5 per cent.
Borough town centre manager Colin Hill said: “Whilst our own recent survey in June 2012 indicated a slightly lower level of vacancies, nevertheless the trend highlighted by the Local Data Company is encouraging.
“Every high street in Britain is facing tough times and the challenges Burnley faces are no different than other towns.
“There are strong grounds for optimism. Multi-million pound plans to redevelop Charter Walk shopping centre have been agreed and retail giant Next is expanding its business into the former TJ Hughes.
“The council has introduced free car parking on its town centre car parks on selected Saturdays to encourage shoppers to come and see what a great town centre we have and we will continue to look for ways of attracting new shops.”
The report, Too Many Shops, which surveyed 145,000 outlets in 506 town centres, showed the North West was the worst region.
Brian Hobbs, president of Burnley Chamber of Trade, said: “I think Burnley’s town centre shopping area is holding up fairly well in tough economic times but it is fragile. I go round other shopping centres in the North West like Blackburn and Rochdale and it is doing OK compared to them.”
LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “At worst, it is about managing decline to enable alternative uses for a centre to take over and, at best, it is maintaining positive trends in the face of increasingly fierce competition and costs."
Blackburn regeneration boss Dave Harling said the LDC figure used an outdated 2004 government definition of the town centre shopping core and includes the old market building with 300 closed retail stalls in its figure for empty outlets, a site now earmarked for redevelopment.