The number of vacant shops blighting the UK's high streets and shopping centres has continued to rise, a report has revealed, amid grim warnings that some will never fully recover.
Ministers have been urged to make it easier for vacant shops to be used for alternative purposes after a report by the Local Data Company showed the average vacancy rate rose to 14.6% at the end of June, up from 14.3% six months ago.
But the situation in some centres is much worse, with Margate suffering the highest vacancy rate of 36.5%, while Nottingham was the worst performing big centre, with more than 30% of its sites empty.
And the report found the north-south divide is widening, with vacancy rates of 18.5% in Wales, the Midlands and the North and 16.7% in Scotland, compared with 12.7% across London and the south.
The depressing findings come despite the Government's high-profile measures to help shops, as high streets continue to be hit by the increasing popularity of shopping online and out-of-town retail parks.