Nottingham 'empty shops' report sparks row
A NEW report on empty shops has sparked a row in Nottingham.
The study from the Local Data Company suggests that 30 per cent of city stores are vacant, which is more than double the national average.
It also states that this has increased by 7.5 per cent in the last year. The national vacancy average is 14.6 per cent and the average for the Midlands and the North stands at 18.5 per cent.
However, the figures have been strongly disputed by Nottingham City Council, which claim the real figure is more like 17.4 per cent.
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Councillor Nick McDonald, portfolio holder for jobs, skills and business, criticised the boundaries used by the Local Data Company.
He said: "They've included Carlton Road and long stretches of Alfreton Road, not just the core retail of the city. It doesn't include leisure facilities and we end up with a ridiculous figure that we don't recognise.
"We do dispute the figures – we're certainly not below Stoke and the other places listed above us.
"If that was true we'd be walking around the city centre and one in three shops would be empty and that's clearly not the case."
The city is still attracting new retailers. Yesterday, the Post revealed fashion retailer Hugo Boss is investing £1 million in a new store on Bridlesmith Gate. And Nottingham is still ranked as the fifth biggest retail destination in Britain, outside London.
Mr McDonald said the city had plans to improve retail. He said it was a council priority that the recent core city deal with the Government had focused on creating a "creative quarter" to regenerate the city centre, and that on-street parking is changing to make access easier.
He also said the council has an "action plan" for Derby Road as well as an overall strategy for the city centre. And he said he was optimistic that the long-awaited plans for the Broadmarsh Centre would soon come to fruition.
He said the council met regularly with the new owners, Capital Shopping Centres, and had seen plans for the centre.
In contrast to the new figures, earlier this year property consultancy, FHP, reported the vacancy rate among city centre shops was just 11.78 per cent.
However, a spokesman for the Local Data Company said it had used the "retail core" boundary for Nottingham as defined by the Government's Communities Department.
He added that the same criteria was used for all areas and confirmed that leisure businesses such as restaurants and bars were not included.
Salisbury tops the chart for large towns, with a vacancy rate of 7.7 per cent, followed by Cambridge and, perhaps more surprisingly, Chesterfield.
The report, Too Many Shops, claims that overall customer expenditure has dropped back to the levels of 2002. However, it also states that the average vacancy rate for Britain had slightly improved.
Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said: "These issues still have some way to go before we see wide stability and positive change. Most importantly it shows that at the town level a widening gap in health exists between town centres depending on their location, offer and consumer profile."