The number of shop units that are currently lying vacant in the Vale of White Horse district has reached a five year low. A snapshot survey, which is carried out on an annual basis in the Valeâs market towns, took place in September and revealed that Abingdon, Faringdon and Wantage are all well below the national average when it comes to the number of empty shops.
While the national average for vacant units currently stands at more than 14 per cent, and some areas struggling with as much as a third of their shops lying empty, in the Vale the figure is substantially lower at just five per cent, representing a 3.5 per cent drop since 2012.
Schemes such as two hours free parking, loyalty cards, regular public events and the introduction of new town co-ordinators have all helped to ensure that Vale towns continue to attract new traders and impressive footfall levels.
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “At a time when many areas are struggling our towns continue to thrive. Wantage has seen a dramatic improvement, Abingdon is going through major changes and Faringdon remains the example to follow. We are really seeing what can happen when communities, businesses and public bodies work together.”
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The big success story for the district has been Wantage where the vacancy rate has more than halved in the last twelve months, going down from 15 per cent (or 27 units) in 2012 to just six per cent in 2013 meaning that there are currently only 11 units which are not occupied in the town. Since the survey was undertaken another unit is undergoing refurbishment, which would take the number of empty units to ten.
The dramatic improvements for the town have come following the introduction of a number of schemes to improve the outlook and attractiveness of the shopping area. These have included pop-up shops, a community space, a new loyalty card, free Wi-Fi and the launch of a prospectus to highlight commercial opportunities in the town and attract new business.
The initiatives have helped to bring more people in to the town and persuade investors that it is the right place to set up their business..
The town has also seen the appointment of two town team co-ordinators, Mim Norvell and Iain Nicholson, to develop projects funded by the High Street Innovation Fund.
Iain Nicholson, Town Team Co-ordinator for Wantage, said: “It’s great to see national and regional chains, independents with shops in other towns, and start ups all choosing to invest in Wantage. The next step is to build on that momentum and overcome barriers to the remaining empty and available units being brought back into use.”
|Total no. of units||156||165||170||174||178||172|
|No. units vacant||16||25||18||18||27||11|
|Total no. of units||66||66||66||66||65||65|
|No. units vacant||2||4||4||1||1||1|
|Total no. of units||195||199||216||243||238||227|
|No. units vacant||18||23||15||23||21||19|