Gloucestershire

Gloucester's rate of empty shops 'among highest'

Gloucester has among the highest number of empty shops in England, according to a study commissioned by the BBC's Inside Out West programme.

The figures show a vacancy rate of 21% in the city, compared with 16% in Bristol, 12% in Cheltenham, 8% in Cirencester and 7% in Swindon.

Of the larger towns and cities included in the Local Data Company survey, the worst affected was Altrincham (29.6%).

Gloucester City Council leader Paul James said the situation was improving.

'Not complacent'

"The number [of empty shops] has declined because of seasonal retailers coming in, but also some new permanent ones as well," he said.

"So I think the position is definitely on a positive trend, I hope that's one that continues, but we're certainly not complacent about it."

The research looked at the opening and closure rates of retail premises, the number of empty shops and the numbers of charity shops, discount stores and supermarkets.

It compared rates from the first six months of 2009 to those in 2010.

Matthew Hopkinson, from the Local Data Company, said: "Gloucester is a fairly large centre.

"It has spent a lot of money and investment on the Gloucester Quays, so it has spread the town out and a bit like a piece of chewing gum, if you pull it apart, you start to get holes in the middle.

"Also, Cheltenham is a very strong retail centre, then you have Cribbs Causeway and Cabot Circus in Bristol, so there's a lot in and around Gloucester that's made other locations potentially more attractive to shop."

John Hudson, who runs Hudson Sports in Gloucester, said he felt the council was regenerating in the "wrong places".

"You come into Gloucester by train or bus, straight away, you're treated to a derelict bus station," he said.

"Kings Square is an absolute eye sore at the moment."

"People used to come into Gloucester every weekend, religiously, to do their shopping. A lot of people I know, whom I bump into in the street, say, 'I haven't been into Gloucester for ages'."

Inside Out West is on BBC 1 at 1930 GMT on Monday night.

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