‘Firms can benefit from empty shops tally’

Empty shops, Preston city centre

Empty shops, Preston city centre

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Preston traders are the most likely in the region to benefit from appealing against their business rates, according to a new survey.

Real estate advisors Colliers International has today published findings showing the retail locations in the North West of England which have seen the largest increase in vacancy rates coupled with a significant decrease in rental value.

Colliers says Preston ranks top of the North West league table, with 63 per cent jump in retail vacancy rates in the central retail area between 2010 and 2014:

Other towns are St Helens, 46 per cent; Wigan, 43 per cent; Bury 42 per cent; Bolton, 41 per cent; Birkenhead, 33 per cent; Oldham, 25 per cent ; Stockport, 22 per cent.

Adam Burke, regional Head of Rating for Colliers International, said: “This research is compelling – it combines information from the Midsummer Retail Rental Report from Colliers International with data from Local Data Company.

“This isn’t just a smoking gun – it’s two smoking barrels of evidence that the Valuation Office, which sets the rateable value for non-domestic properties, should be happy acting on to reduce the rateable values of retail units in those worst affected centres in the North West of England.”

But the survey’s findings seem at odds with research by the Preston Business Improvement District.

Preston BID’s own figures recently showed the number of vacant retail and business premises in Preston city centre had halved in the past three years.

Its research showed vacancy rates had plunged from an alarming 24 per cent in 2012 to a new low of 12 per cent.

That’s six per cent below the regional average

Mark Whittle of the BID said: “BID’s city centre study was conducted using a physical, on the ground count.

“Our survey was strictly based on the city centre, not wider-Preston and included non-retail premises.

“You only have to visit the city centre and it’s plain to see that there are far less vacant units than in previous years, although collectively as a city, we know there is more work to be done.”