A town in Stoke-on-Trent has highest number of empty shops in its high street.
Nearly a third of shops in Burslem lie vacant according to a recent study.
The 11,000-strong dwelling had a shop vacancy rate of 31.5 per cent in the first half of 2017, nearly three times higher than the national average of 12.2 per cent.
Pictures of the once-thriving Potteries town now show an empty, desolate high street with dozens of boarded up shops.
Business leaders said the town had been left deserted due to the demise of the pottery industry, heavy investment in nearby Hanley instead, a lack of parking, as well as the impact of Brexit.
Pictures of the once-thriving Potteries town now show an empty high street with dozens of vacant units boarded up
Business leaders say the town has been left deserted due to the demise of the pottery industry, which gave the area its nickname
Amit Patel, 42, who has run the Booze and News Convenience Store for nine years, believes there is no incentive for new businesses to set up in Burslem.
He said: ‘There are too many empty shops – far too many.
‘Every month, I’m looking at it and saying ‘this shop is going, that shop is going’, it goes on and on. Now there’s nothing here any more.
Parking is a big problem. People want to be able to park their cars, and walk a few seconds down the street in order to get what they want.
‘But there’s double yellow lines everywhere, and only a few car parks.
‘If people want to go to a shop for a pint of milk, they don’t want to pay for an hour’s worth of parking.
‘When it is so difficult to park, and when there are no banks, there’s no attraction to come here.
‘If you go to Newcastle-under-Lyme or Stoke city centre, there is free parking there. So everyone is going there.
‘We need a big business to come here to encourage others, but when you’re the first it is always going to be a risk.’
Burslem, in Stoke-on-Trent, is the UK’s top ‘ghost town’, according to a recent study by the Local Data Company
In recent years, Burslem has seen the closure of its historic indoor market as well as a glass museum and around 30 shops in total sit empty
Father-of-two Uthayan Kanagalingam, 38, who has run Burslem Food and Wine for five years, said: ‘There is a problem with the empty units, as it is hard to kick-start a business here.
‘I tried to open another shop recently, and the problem was that there was no disabled access and no parking.
‘Who is going to want that? Burslem is a wonderful place, but sadly it is not a retail hotspot, and I don’t think that that will change anytime soon.’
Independent Councillor Alan Dutton, who represents the Burslem Central ward of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said the decline of the potteries has contributed to the huge number of vacant units.
He said: ‘I was surprised by the study in a lot of respects.
‘The fact of the matter is that Burslem is not what you would call a ‘destination town’.
‘I think we have been working to serve the people that live and work here, rather than looking to bring in new people.
‘That’s a mentality that maybe we need to change now.
‘During the hayday of the potteries, this would have been a hustling, bustling place to go. As soon as the pottery went, there was almost nothing to replace it with.
‘There are still empty factories where the potteries would have once been, and you could easily convert those into houses and add an extra 4,000 pairs of legs.
‘Part of the problem is that landlords are charging high rents to compensate for the low footfall, but that in turn is drawing people away.
‘You want low rents, more people coming in, more footfall and more money swirling around, but that is not happening.’
Traders are calling for more to be done to encourage independent stores and big chains to open after their high street was named the loneliest in Britain (pictured: empty shops in Queen Street, in Burslem)
But June Cartwright, 73, a mother-of-seven, who runs the Burslem Community group, criticised the study and claimed the town was ‘on the up’.
She said: ‘I think the statistics are very unfair. They have shown the worst of the town. I really don’t know where they get those numbers from.
‘Of course there are empty units, but you’re going to get that with every town in the country.
‘That’s the trend at the moment, people are choosing to go to big department stores instead of independent places.
‘We’ve all become a lot lazier. It doesn’t take very long to park up in a car park, and walk to an independent store, but people don’t want to put in that effort.
‘Even the major supermarkets are looking to draw people into buying things online and having it delivered, it’s convenience shopping.
‘This area is fantastic, you have beautiful architecture here, and a lot of fantastic events on day in, day out.
‘I believe that we’re on the up, but studies like this don’t help.’
Hundreds of shops lie empty in the town in Stoke-on-Trent (pictured: Brick House Street)
Business leaders said the town had been left deserted due to the demise of the pottery industry, heavy investment in nearby Hanley instead, a lack of parking, as well as the impact of Brexit (pictured: Market Place)
The Local Data Company, which was compiled by visiting 2,700 towns and cities, also revealed the number of shop openings in the second quarter of 2017 has fallen by 84 per cent.
Matthew Hopkinson, spokesperson for LDC, said: ‘There was a striking turnaround in the second quarter of 2017 especially when compared to the trends of 2016, in the number of shop openings.
‘The impact of Brexit is clear with Q2 showing a net loss of more than – 200 shops versus positive growth in the previous quarter.
‘Not only has the trend turned negative with more closures than openings but the volume of activity has also dropped by 25 per cent.
‘Whilst the numbers are currently relatively small to the total number of shops, the vacancy rate in Q2 started to rise and is likely to continue to do so if the current uncertainty continues.
‘Stores continue to perform a vital role in the purchase cycle and consumer journey but the key questions remain around how many shops you need, what kind of format and in which locations.
‘With rising costs everywhere for retailers, margins are being squeezed and therefore understanding these micro to macro location trends is fundamental for retailer success.
‘The changes in the first half of 2017 are a clear indicator of the uncertainty that permeates across all aspects of the UK economy.’