High streets start to recover in Barking and Dagenham, study indicates

The number of vacant shops blighting our high streets has fallen, bucking the overall trend in Britain, a new study has shown.

Research by the Local Data Company showed that vacancy rates had dropped from 15.9 per cent in 2011 to 14 per cent this year in Barking and from 10.5 to 8.9 per cent in Dagenham.

However, the number of empty shops continued to grow slightly in Great Britain, from 14.3 per cent last year to 14.6 per cent this year.

Barking and Dagenham business leaders gave the findings a guarded welcome today.

Chamber of Commerce president Lloyd Johnson, 36, said: “This is a positive reduction in vacancies.

“The biggest challenge is to get the right mix of shops in the area, so that it can fulfil the needs of the clients.

“The biggest challenge for shopping centres like Vicarage Field in Barking and the Mall in Dagenham now is to work very, very hard to keep and bring new clients.

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“We went through a difficult period this year with the Olympics and people being away this summer. We now look forward to Christmas.”

The study showed the tentative recovery in Barking and Dagenham was in line with the overall trend in the capital, where vacancy rates fell from 10.7 per cent last year to 10.1 per cent in 2012.

Vicarage Field shopping centre in Ripple Road also welcomed the findings and predicted that almost all of its 55 retail spaces would be in use in the lead-up to the festive season.

Centre manager Simon Green said: “It is positive given the number of high-profile liquidations including Game and Peacocks.

“The picture is quite positive. We would like to think that in the run-up to Christmas will might have one vacancy, and that’s about it.”

Shop vacancy rates have steadily risen in Britain from around nine per cent in 2008 to 14.6 per cent this year.

The new figures published this month relate to January to June 2011 and January to June 2012.