Vacancy rates in city paint national average picture

Market Street in Lancaster, one of the city's main shopping arteries.
Market Street in Lancaster, one of the city's main shopping arteries.

The number of empty shops in Lancaster mirrors the national average, according to a city council survey.

Lancaster City Council carried out a health check assessment on Lancaster, Morecambe and Carnforth, which showed big differences between the three centres.

Lancaster’s overall vacancy rate was 11.7 per cent, while in the Lancaster Primary Retail Frontage, the busiest shopping area, the vacancy rate was 7.1 per cent.

The largest vacant property was the former market hall, where work has now started on a Primark. The former Next store will also re-open as a JD Sports.

Morecambe’s vacancy rate was 18.9 per cent, meaning one in five shops were empty, however the council pointed out that the survey was undertaken in March and Morecambe, as with many seaside towns, has a seasonal pattern of shop use with vacancy rates becoming lower in the summer.

In Carnforth there was just one vacant unit in the whole town, making the vacancy rate 1.4 per cent.

The council said that the figures may have changed within the intervening period.

The national average is 11.6 per cent.

Coun Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning, said: “Through its regeneration work the council is very active in investing and improving the district’s town centres and public spaces to ensure that they can continue to be attractive to investors and retailers, in turn ensuring that shoppers and visitors can benefit from a diverse and quality shopping experience.

“In Lancaster this has included the recent £1m investment in improving the city’s streets. The private sector is also investing and we have seen recent re-investment in stores such as Boots, Marks and Spencer and Next.

“Next year the council will also be investing in Morecambe to improve the town centre by, among other projects, creating a new pedestrian gateway from the central seafront. The council is also contributing £40,000 towards the development of a Business Improvement District in the town.

“It’s important to remember, however, that although the city council can, and does, take some action, ultimately the state of the economy nationally and Government policy have a huge effect on the health of our high streets.”