The number of empty non-residential properties has dropped in some boroughs
High streets in Hampshire and Surrey are blighted by thousands of vacant shops, although there are signs that the problem is improving.
According to new figures, there are 1,637 empty properties lining the streets of Rushmoor, Hart, Guildford and Waverley boroughs.
Although the UK’s economic problems continue, the government data shows a positive trend for the News & Mail area as the number of empty shops have, in three of the four boroughs, decreased from the previous year.
In response to the figures, local authorities said a close working relationship with businesses was imperative to reduce the number of vacant buildings.
Councils also said it was important to have as few empty shops as possible as vacant buildings gave a ‘negative impression of a town’.
Statistics for 2012/13 showed that in Rushmoor, there were 322 empty properties – equating to 13% of the total – which is slightly less than the 15% recorded in 2011/12.
The figures include all non-domestic properties such as shops, schools, hospitals, warehouses and factories.
Andrew Lloyd, chief executive at Rushmoor Borough Council, said: “We do everything we can to keep the number of voids low as they can give a negative impression of a town and detract from the good things available in the town centres.
“I am pleased the number of empty shops has come down from last year especially when we bear in mind Farnborough town centre’s regeneration works to improve the street scene.”
He said when there were empty properties the council would ‘dress the shops up’ by putting picture screens in the windows to make them look pleasant.
Regarding Aldershot, he said there were a number of empty shops in The Galleries and that the council was working closely with the owners to re-market the site. Dorothy Perkins and Burton also left the town in August.
He said The Arcade in Aldershot, which also had a number of vacant stores, was in the process of being re-developed.
In Hart there are 242 empty properties – or 11.4% – less than the 13% recorded the year before.
Councillor Ken Crookes, leader of Hart District Council, said: “One of the reasons behind Hart being a great place to live is the strength of the local economy.
“We are working with our partners, including the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, Fleet Future, the Federation of Small Businesses and Hampshire Chamber of Commerce to promote and support local businesses.”
In the context of offices, Hart is working with Enterprise M3 to understand and address the empty office issue that the area is experiencing.
In terms of shops, the council is providing support to community groups and town and parish councils to enable them to better understand and address specific local issues.
Hart District Council has commissioned a report to be returned in the spring looking into retail issues in Fleet.
In the Guildford borough, which includes Ash, there are 623 empty properties. This makes up 14.2% of the total number of properties, just over the 14.1% recorded the previous year.
In Waverley borough, which includes Farnham, there are 450 empty properties (11%).
This is slightly lower than the 12% recorded in 2011/12.
The percentage of empty shops in Rushmoor, Hart, Guildford and Waverley was far less than in many other parts of the country, including Nottingham with 26% and Birmingham with 25%.