MORE than one in four shops in Hartlepool is standing empty, according to new figures released today.
The Local Data Company’s latest report on vacancy rates, ‘Mind the Gap’, shows the town has the third highest rate of vacancies in the country.
The report analysed more than 3,000 town centres, shopping centres and retail park to deliver a comprehensive insight into the health of Britain’s retail real estate.
It shows Hartlepool has a vacancy rate of 27.3 per cent, behind only Burselm in the West Midlands (29.4 per cent) and Stoke-on-Trent (27.7 per cent).
It is not all bad news, however, with Hartlepool the only one in the top three to record a drop in its vacancy rate over the past year, down by 0.4 per cent.
Across the region, the picture is grim – the North East replaces the North West at the top of the shop vacancy league table, with a rate of 18.8 per cent.
The report emphasises the north/south economic divide, with vacancy rates across the North East, North West, and West Midlands all double that of London, and Yorkshire and the Humber not far behind.
On average one in 10 shops lies empty in the south while in the north, the figure is one in five.
Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company commented: “At a regional level, the polarisation between the North and the South is as wide as ever with London’s vacancy rate being less than half that of the northern regions.
“Of the top 10 highest vacancy towns in the country all are in the North, West Midlands or Wales.”
Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange Shopping Centre manager, said: “Rather than comparing ourselves to other towns and cities we should focus on what we as a town are doing and how we continue to attract new business and inward investment to Hartlepool and our longer term vision.
“In 2014 Middleton Grange welcomed Roman and TJ Hughes which has resulted in a seven per cent decrease in vacant floor space at the centre.
“A number of existing retailers successfully renegotiated terms to remain in the centre.
“Plus, in recent weeks three more independent traders have joined our indoor market.
“We will continue to invest in the centre and work with the council as they set out the vision for Hartlepool through The Hartlepool Regeneration Masterplan.”