The West End of Morecambe has again topped a league table for having the most empty shops in the UK.
One in three of the shops in the West End (37.1%) stand vacant, according to statistics compiled by the Local Data Company.
But the deputy leader of Lancaster City Council has called the figures “misleading” and says the council will tackle the problem by ‘centralising’ shopping in Morecambe.
Coun Janice Hanson, who lives in the West End, said the council’s own survey shows the percentage of empty shops reduced to 22% when the whole of Morecambe is taken into account.
“You cannot easily compare a seaside town to inland centres because the level of shopping was originally generated by demand from its expanded population during peak holiday times,” said Coun Hanson.
“As British resorts have changed, an over provision of shop numbers has occurred. In the West End of Morecambe this effect has been more marked, but it is misleading to isolate this one area and compare it against vacancy rates for whole towns.
“The West End contains many small shops in peripheral locations which have not been open for many years as they do not meet residents’ shopping requirements.
“The council is working to concentrate the shopping offer in a more central location of Morecambe which is faring better than the West End and finding alternative uses for these long term empty properties as we consider that there are currently too many empty retail premises.”
Coun Hanson said the council would still support existing West End retailers.
“We have created a new free long stay parking area (on Parliament Street) to encourage people to shop in the area.
“We have also given the go ahead for a major new housing project, with the backing of £1.9million in Government funding, to bring more than 90 empty homes back into use. This will help to reinvigorate the West End and encourage more families into the area, bringing benefits for existing retailers and encouraging new ones to set up business.
“On a wider level our Morecambe Area Action plan will create a long term vision for the resort, bringing in private investment.”
Figures revealed shop vacancy rates in the North West are 20.1%, more than double the 9.4% in London.
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