Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Ghost Town' Fears as One in Eight Shops Lies Empty

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Ghost Town' Fears as One in Eight Shops Lies Empty

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Prynn and Miranda Bryant

SAVE OUR SMALL SHOPS Evening Standard Campaign

ONE London shop in eight is now boarded up, a report claims today.

The finding comes amid warnings that some high streets will never recover from the recession and the impact of online competition.

Although the capital has fared better than many parts of Britain, the collapse of chains such as Threshers and Borders has left thousands of shops empty.

In central London, from Kensington in the west to the City in the east, the vacancy rate shot up from 10.8 per cent to 12.9 per cent between June and December, says the study by the Local Data Company.

This compares with a 12 per cent national average. The most desolate town centre in the capital is Kensal Town in west London, where half all shop premises are empty, followed by Lee Green in south-east London, with a vacancy rate of 30.6 per cent.

However, tourism has kept the West End buoyant, with scarcely any available premises in Oxford Street -- creating a "doughnut" effect with a vibrant flagship store core and suffering "charity shop" suburbs.

Westfield London shopping mall in Shepherd's Bush is also unscathed and is 99 per cent occupied, although this has had a knock-on effect for areas such as Hammersmith.

James Moss, director of agents Curzon Investment Property, said: "Many areas of London that were previously high streets simply won't go back to being shopping areas.

"We need a concerted effort to ensure empty shops can be quickly re-used for housing or leisure without the usual planning delays.

"If a coordinated approach is taken, the high street blight could prove to be a massive opportunity to house Londoners."

The downturn has piled additional pressure on shops that were already suffering from a combination of rising business rates, soaring rents and draconian parking restrictions.

The retail industry has called for Government and local authority action to stop high streets dying. …

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