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Closed shops shock

PUBLISHED: 15:56 17 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:29 23 August 2010

THE town centre has one of the highest rates of empty shops in the region, new figures have shown. Gravesend, with 16.7% of business premises sitting vacant, was the fourth worst for empty shops in 2009 in the South East. The statistics were compiled

THE town centre has one of the highest rates of empty shops in the region, new figures have shown.

Gravesend, with 16.7% of business premises sitting vacant, was the fourth worst for empty shops in 2009 in the South East. The statistics were compiled by the Local Data Company, an independent organisation that collects data on leisure and retail.

Matthew Hopkinson, the director of the group who gathered the figures, believes that the north west Kent town faces a difficult challenge to fill the units. He said: "As it stands Gravesend is well above the national average of 12.4% of shops sitting vacant and this could get worse.

"The main problem is that Gravesend is heavily dominated by independent shops with about 75% being owned by traders, these are vulnerable during a recession.

"Bluewater is just down the road and when the facilities are opened at the Olympic site which is just down the A2 things could get worse.

Leader of Gravesham Borough Council Mike Snelling said the council had taken steps to assist shops and businesses. He added: "Statistics do not tell the whole story although they do indicate that the recession has hit retailing very hard. This council has taken steps to assist shops and local businesses during this period and continues to do so. In the short term we have introduced free car parking at weekends which has not only been widely praised has also had a palpable effect on footfall."

The seaside resort town of Margate has the highest rate if empty premises in the south east with a staggering 27.2% of units lying empty.

Tunbridge Wells occupies 20th spot and only 3.2% of shops in the mid-Kent town are currently without an operator.

In general the number of empty shops continues to increase across the region but the rate at which this is happening is falling.

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