Stockport Council has hit back at revelations that the city has the highest ratio of empty shops in the UK, according to new figures released today.
Staggeringly, over 30% of premises have either gone out of business or have relocated, leaving nearly a third of stores in Stockport city centre vacant.
However, the council insists that the figures do not fairly represent the amount of activity in its city centre.
Councillor Dave Goddard, Leader of Stockport Council, said: “For anyone who has visited Stockport recently, it is clear that this report does not accurately reflect our town centre.
“It continues to boast a vibrant and successful shopping area, attracting household names like Primark, GAP and H&M. 300,000 visitors in the last week of Christmas and almost 100% occupancy of Merseyway shopping centre tells its own story.”
The north-west is one of the hardest hit when it comes to boarded up shops, with areas such as Blackburn also suffering from similar levels of lack of commercial growth.
Figures released by the Local Data Company (LDC) shows the north-west to have around a 20 per cent shop vacancy rate, with the worst-hit areas rivalling Athens for empty-shop ratios.
Matthew Kershaw, local policy manager for Stockport at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, added: “We have found that the council’s attitude towards this is very positive. Everyone recognises that we need a strong town centre.
“The Chamber’s Quarterly economic Survey, which got a record number of responses last quarter, has consistently shown that Greater Manchester is outperforming the north-west as a region, and Stockport is an important contributor to that.”
Whilst Stockport Council acknowledges there is work to be done, Cllr Goddard insists that steps are being taken to improve development and create employment prospects.
Cllr Goddard said: “Yes there are challenges facing retailers, but we are working together to tackle them head on. We are taking decisive action, driving forward development to create jobs and opportunities.
“We will continue this proactive approach to ensure a thriving town centre which is fit for the future.
“I invite Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company, to come to Stockport and see for himself.”