23 May 2016 - Janet Bird
The number of vacant shops in the UK fell to its lowest level in seven years last month.
The national shop vacancy rate stood at 12.4 percent in April, the lowest level since 2009 and 0.6 percent less than during the same period in 2015, according to statistics from the Local Data Company (LDC).
Year on year, town centre vacancy rates fell 0.5 percent, though Scotland saw an increase of 0.8%.
Shopping centre vacancies also dropped by 1.4 percent, with the Northeast and Scotland seeing the biggest reductions. However, Wales saw a 0.2 percent rise.
The picture was more varied when it came to retail park vacancies. While the Midlands saw a 3.5 percent fall, Scotland experienced an increase of 0.4 percent.
The overall reduction in the shop vacancy rate is believed to have been driven by two main factors - a fall in the number of units becoming vacant, which was down 16 percent compared to April 2015, and an increase of 76 percent in the number of vacant retail premises being put to alternative uses.
LDC said the growing recognition by landlords and local authorities that shops unoccupied for more than three years were unlikely ever to be reoccupied, and therefore should be used in another way, was to be welcomed.