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Report finds more shop space in Norwich city centre is standing empty

PUBLISHED: 07:14 19 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:53 19 September 2018

Toys R Us in Norwich is among the shops which have shut. Photograph: Martin Pearce.

Toys R Us in Norwich is among the shops which have shut. Photograph: Martin Pearce.

Archant

A new report has revealed the amount of shop space standing empty in Norwich has gone up, with the closure of major stores such as Toys R Us contributing to the increase.

A new report produced by Norwich City Council details the vacancy rates and changes of shop types in the city, looking at the city centre, district areas such as Anglia Square, Riverside and St Augustine’s, district centres such as Bowthorpe and Plumstead Road and local centres, such as Grove Road.

It showed that, in the city centre itself, the number of vacant units has gone down slightly, from 11.3pc in 2016 to 10.8pc for 2018.

But the actual amount of vacant floorspace in Norwich city centre is on the rise, from 5.8pc in 2016 to 7.3pc in 2018, although that remains below the 2010 high of 12.4pc.

The Retail Monitor 2018 report says that in the ‘primary area’ in the city centre, the majority of it is “performing reasonably well”.

But they say six of the seven areas they monitor has seen a reduction in the proportion of units occupied by shops and they say Castle Mall is currently experiencing a “high level” of long-term empty shops - 26pc.

They say the city centre’s ‘secondary areas’ have seen the “most dramatic rise”, from 2.8pc in 2016 to 17.7pc in 2018.

Officers said: “This can be attributed to the closure of some large scale national retailers, most notably Toys R Us in Cathedral Retail Park, which had a significant floor use for a single retailer”.

Further afield, in the large district centres, such as Anglia Square, Magdalen Street, Riverside and St Augustine’s Street vacancy rates have risen slightly.

And vacancy rates in the other district centres, such as Bowthorpe, Aylsham Road and Plumstead Road, vacancy rates have gone up to 11.7pc from 9.6pc.

But, despite the empty shops, officers said: “The 2018 monitoring figures suggest that the retail performance across the city remains relatively robust and competitive.
“However, it is apparent that vacancy levels have continued to increase marginally in all areas either in floorspace or unit number terms, except for local centres which have, overall, enjoyed a decrease in vacant units at the same time as increasing the overall number of units.”

But council officers say they will continue to closely monitor the situation.

They said: “The retail industry has been undergoing dramatic structural changes in recent years, partially driven by technology, which may have ongoing impacts for the viability of some retail businesses.”

At a meeting of the city council’s sustainable development committee today, councillors will hear how the council will continue to look at ways to “cultivate” and support the retail offer of Norwich, working with organisations such as the Norwich Business Improvement District

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