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One in five Carlisle shops stands empty, study shows

Nearly one in five of all shops in Carlisle is empty – ranking it one of the worst areas in Cumbria and the north east.

The Local Data Company research claims as of the end of 2010, 18.6 per cent of all shops in Carlisle were empty, up 3.9 per cent on the previous year.

It ranks the city as 13th worst across the north east and Cumbria, with Kendal ranked 17th at 14.7 per cent of shops empty up 3.2 per cent.

No other Cumbrian area was on the list.

Stockton-on-Tees is the worst for empty shops with 28.6 per cent empty and nationally 14.5 per cent of shops are vacant.

The report shows the continuing impact of the recession upon town centres and said the gap between northern and southern centres is growing. It predicts the situation will get worse in the coming year.

Labour has launched a campaign Save Our High Streets and are calling for urgent action to help retailers, protect jobs and give people a say over their high streets.

Its plan includes a temporary cut in VAT to 17.5 per cent and a repeat of the party’s empty shops initiative, which allowed councils to use for empty shops and reinvigorate high-streets, such as using vacant units for cultural, community or learning services, rather than leaving them empty.

Labour said it would fund a £5m programme as part of the £200m allocated to regional growth from a repeat of the bank bonus tax.

Earlier this month, the government announced it was looking at changing rules required to temporarily change the use of empty buildings in an attempt to reinvigorate high streets.

Planning Minister Greg Clark said: “Empty properties can drain the life away from town centres and are a waste of a valuable social and economic resource. We want to make it easier for businesses and community enterprises to reanimate vacant spaces, helping to revive struggling high streets and kick-start local growth.

“Removing bureaucratic barriers in the planning system could play a major part in encouraging meanwhile uses of empty buildings, transforming them into new shops, business start-ups and community projects.”

Have your say

JJ: read these words very carefully:

Councils do not set or keep business rates. They have no powers to vary them. They only collect them. Is that clear??????

Posted by Jim on 28 July 2011 at 15:47

I think there are two things here...

The first is that why don't all the retailers in Carlisle create a working group that will lobby the council against unrealistic business rates etc... Many voices together are much better than one. Also what negociation is being done with the landlords. If i was a landlord i would much rather be earning a lesser amount on a unit than it standing empty for two years.... Could new businesses come to an agreement where they pay a reduced rate for the first year while they establish the business, then pay a higher rent in years 2 and 3 to pay back?

The second (and perhaps more important) point is how can we change the model to develop the bricks and mortar retail offering. 99.9% of shops in Carlisle open 9-5 seven days. What i don;t understand is why the high street has not taken up the out of town retail model of late opening hours. I've walked through Carlisle at 9am on a weekday morning, with all the shops open and no shoppers around at all. All the shops are empty. And why?? Because people are in work.

What is one of the biggest advantages the internet has over bricks and mortar stores - flexibility. An internet shop is always open. Now i know retailers (apart from the supermarkets) are never going to be open 24/7, however opening later in the evenings when people are not working gives an opportunity for them to come to the high street and shop.

My advice to retailers is lets stopping focussing on the negatives of the internet and market conditions making business difficult and do some 'Blue Sky' thinking on how bricks and mortar retailer can develop its offering to the public.

Posted by JJ on 28 July 2011 at 14:03

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