From Planning Magazine:
More than one in ten town centre shops were vacant in May, according to a survey published by membership body the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
OK there's a recession on and that has accelerated the problem but the real issues are:
Sales through town centres grew by just 0.2% in 2010, underperforming out-of-town and non-store retail, which both achieved significant uplifts.
While out-of-town increased by 1.6%, non-store sales achieved exceptional growth, up by 10.4%. Town centre is less convenient and more exposed to discretionary sectors.
You see that? Town centres as locations for comparison retail - other than a limited number of regional centres - are finished. And as Datamonitor point out in their 2011 review of town centre retail (from which the above statisitcs come):
The role of the town centre is set to change, moving away from a predominantly retail channel to a more leisure-based centre. Coffee houses and restaurants are taking up a greater proportion of space in the town centre as they have the resources to continue growing.
And the answer doesn't lie in aggressive and restricting planning rules - try applying them to on-line and mail order retailing! Watch as the planners drive all those warehousing and distribution jobs to somewhere else in the world - somewhere with planners that believe in promoting development and creating jobs.
Yet that's what the Labour Party want us to do! And the RTPI - the planners union - they don't even mention "non-store sales" in their programme for a conference on town centres and retail and barely mention leisure and pleasure either!