Report claiming Letchworth is UK blackspot for empty shops is proved wrong

CLAIMS that Letchworth GC is a major blackspot in England when it comes to empty shops reflecting the grim aftermath of the recession have been found to be inaccurate. A report by The Local Data Company (LDC) showed the garden city was second in a leag

CLAIMS that Letchworth GC is a major blackspot in England when it comes to empty shops reflecting the grim aftermath of the recession have been found to be inaccurate.

A report by The Local Data Company (LDC) showed the garden city was second in a league table for medium sized towns with 24.5 per cent of shops vacant.

And in its London area league the LDC placed Letchworth GC top.

The survey, it is claimed, was done in September and nobody from the LDC contacted either the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation of the town centre manager to find the true facts why shops were empty.


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Letchworth Garden City Town Centre manager Lee Boswell and Garden Square Shopping Centre manager Colin Bell carried out their own survey after seeing the report and found only around NINE per cent of shops were truly vacant leaving the town comfortably out of the leagues.

"The accurate figures are a very different story to those reported," said Mr Boswell.

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"We have in access of 230 shops in Letchworth and when you take into consideration the units that are currently empty due to the redevelopment then the figure drops to just 20 units available to let representing nine per cent.

"While this figure is still higher than we would like, it actually shows that Letchworth has not had an increase in empty unit over the past 12 months and that is in stark contrast to the retail market across the country which has seen an increase."

Stuart Kenny, director general of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, said: "In reality there are only 20 genuinely available to let shops in the town centre.

"The rest are either under offer or are relocation properties for retailers."

Matthew Hopkins defended the LDC figures saying: "This is not a name and shame exercise. It is a way of indicating what is going on in the high street.

"If a shop is empty then it is counted as vacant. The bottom line is we did not have time to speak to every town centre manager when we are trying to keep up to date with 600,000 premises."

Hitchin's figure for vacancies is 8.4 per cent with the LDC saying the town has more to offer than Letchworth GC.

In the league table for the East of England, Stevenage is placed 10th with a vacancy level of 7.6 per cent.

Stevenage Town Centre manager Tracey Parry saying: "The figure for Stevenage is reasonably accurate and, as noted in the report, is well below the national average. Some of the town centre's empty shops are part of a proposed re-development scheme (Park Place) and, therefore, could almost be discounted and we also have 10 less voids than this time last year.

"When you compare Stevenage to some of our neighbouring towns, you can see that Stevenage comes out on top, with higher vacancy rates currently in Welywn Garden City, Bedford, St Albans, Harlow, Luton and Letchworth.

"Stevenage continues to see strong interest from property owners regarding potential new store openings.

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