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Fall in number of empty shops reflects economic success

30 January 2019

A further reduction in the number of vacant retail premises in South Lakeland has been welcomed.

The level of vacant retail premises in some areas is below 5%, which is less than half the national average. 

The latest figures for December 2018 show the resilience and vibrancy of our communities. 

Councillor Graham Vincent, our Portfolio Holder for Economy and Assets, said: “It is encouraging to see such a positive picture in so many of our towns. The success in keeping such a high number of premises occupied on our high streets is making a massive contribution to maintaining the vibrancy of these communities, and bodes well for the future.”

Empty shop numbers are collected every six months by our Economic Development team, focussing on locations such as Kendal, Ulverston, Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside, Grange-over-Sands, Milnthorpe and Kirkby Lonsdale.

Figures for December 2018 show that Kendal town centre had three fewer empty shops than in June, down to 41 from 44 from a total of 432 counted (9.5 per cent). This was the lowest number since June 2015.

Ulverston was down to 7 from 13 in June from a total of 169 counted (4.1 per cent), while Windermere was down to 4 from 11 from 123 counted (3.3 per cent) – the lowest since March 2015.

Grange and Kirkby Lonsdale both remained on 4, out of 78 and 85 counted respectively (5.1 per cent and 4.7 per cent).

The number in Bowness rose to 11 from 7 (7.4 per cent of 148 counted, with one extra retail unit added since the last count in June). The numbers also increased slightly in Ambleside (up 1 to 15 from 14 in June 2017 from 165 counted, which gives a percentage of 9.1) and Milnthorpe (up 1 to 10 from 54 counted, which is a percentage of 18.5 per cent). It is normal for some units to be empty as leases come to an end, but there is interest and new occupants are expected soon.

Nationally, the average was 11.4 per cent in the first half of 2018, according to the Local Data Company. The North West average was 15 per cent.

“There is no escaping the fact that the retail sector is going through a prolonged period of upheaval and we are not immune to that,” added Cllr Vincent. “Factors outwith our control such as increased internet shopping and challenging economic conditions are affecting our retail businesses and impacting on some of our communities, but what we are seeing is great resilience and the variety of our town centre offer is holding us in good stead.

“We will do all we can to help. SLDC has an empty property search which people looking for properties can use and our excellent Economic Development team is always ready and available to talk to any current or interested business.”

The news comes after it was revealed that  South Lakeland’s total Gross Value Added (GVA) rose to £2.413 billion in 2017. The latest figures for 2017 show that South Lakeland continues to play an important role in UK production, with £385 million of its GVA in manufacturing, a sector which supports the employment of 5,000 people.

With Barrow and Lancaster also increasing their GVA from the previous year, the wider Morecambe Bay economic area is the sixth best performing in the North West, and growing, with a combined GVA of £7.074 billion, a rise of £257 million.

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