Revealed: The number of empty shops on your town’s high street
PUBLISHED: 08:07 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:20 21 November 2019
Nearly one in five shops are empty on some Norfolk and Waveney high streets, but tourist hotspots are booming.
More than 500 units now lie vacant in the region's 18 biggest towns, up 16pc on last year, figures from the Local Data Company show.
But there is huge variation, with some places like Cromer and Hunstanton hardly having an empty shop, while in Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn, North Walsham and Lowestoft, more than 15pc of units are unfilled.
Great Yarmouth has the highest percentage of vacant shops at almost 19pc, a total of 97 units - up from 80 last year.
Mohammed Anwar, at the Ministry of Vape store in Regent Road, said: "You can see the High Street is dead."
He said the town was a lot busier in the summer months but high business rates made it difficult for businesses.
A 68-year-old former engineer, who has lived in Great Yarmouth for more than 30 years, said: "You can feel the emptiness in the town during winter, but you can get to Norwich for shopping easily from here."
Jonathan Newman, town centre manager said the borough council had launched a £50m scheme that would transform the centre by 2025.
North Walsham had the third highest proportion of empty stores at 17pc.
However the number has fallen from 23 last year to 19 now.
The Shambles Cafe in Market Street said it had gone from strength-to-strength since it opened.
Owner Rebecca Lysaght said: "One of the reasons we opened this place was to help regenerate and bring life back into the town.
"In providing an example of success it's inspiring other people, especially independent businesses."
A North Norfolk council spokesman said: "We have supported the town through the market towns initiative to which significant work is already being undertaken, particularly in the St Nicholas Court precinct."
But some shoppers say the town lacked variety.
One 76-year-old man, who has lived in the town for 20 years, said: "Apart from Roys there's nowhere to get gentlemen's clothes."
Another 71-year-old woman, who has lived in North Walsham for more than 30 years, said: "You used to be able to get everything here, but no matter where you go there are empty shops everywhere."
King's Lynn, meanwhile, had a vacancy rate of 18pc.
However a new H&M store opened earlier this month at the Vancouver Quarter, replacing the former Westgate department store.
Elsewhere, The Fent Shop in Broad Street has been a staple of the town centre for more than 60 years.
Owner Louise Day, 36, said: "There has been a few new shops opening up like H&M but mainly they're either charity shops or coffee shops."
Lowestoft is also seeing more investment to revive its flagging centre where 43 shops (16pc) are now empty, up from 35 last year.
A spokesman from East Suffolk Council said a £500,000 funding scheme by Historic England will deliver a four-year programme to regenerate the centre.
At the other end of the scale the towns with the smallest percentage of empty shops were Cromer, Downham Market, Holt, Hunstanton and Wymondham.
Robbie Kirtley, owner of the Rocket House Cafe in Cromer, said: "There are lots of people here all year round which helps businesses throughout the year.
"The council has done a lot by putting money back in the community and to make the town look really nice - we have quite a lot of filming on the beach and the pier was used in a TV advert."
Norwich had the highest number of empty units, at 160 (14pc) compared to 129 (12pc) last year.
Stefan Gurney, executive director at Norwich BID, said: "Norwich has a strong independent and a unique retail offer and continues to trade well against its national comparator cities."
Ronald Nyakairu, senior manager at the Local Data Company, added: "Retail locations are facing challenging times with retailers consolidating their estates; landlords are struggling to attract new tenants creating vacant spaces.
"The East of England has seen vacancy rates rise, however the region has fared better than other parts of the country overall."
A new government campaign called MyTown was launched earlier this month which will see £3.6 billion invested into town centres to bring empty shops back into use.
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