THE number of shops lying empty in Halton’s local centres has more than doubled since 2014, a new report has revealed.

The council recently carried out a survey of the borough’s local centres which found there were 39 vacant units, a hike of 23 since the last survey was conducted in 2014 when there were just 16.

The survey is conducted every few years by the council’s planning team where they assess things such as mix of traders, types of goods and services sold, floor space and quality of shopfronts and buildings.

According to the latest findings, there are 34 local centres across Halton, which are essentially rows of shops and other services that lie outside each town’s main town centre. They include  the likes of Brookvale and Grangeway in Runcorn, and Halton View Road and Queen’s Avenue in Widnes.

The study found:

  • The Runcorn centres of Murdishaw, Halton Village and Russel Road have higher vacancy rates (60%+), with Brookvale, Palacefields and Picton Ave at 50%.
  • In Widnes, Bechers and Hale Road have the highest proportion of vacancies, whilst a number of previous retail units in West Bank, Liverpool Road and Warrington Road have been converted to residential properties.
  • There has been a loss of 14 hair and beauty/tanning salons and five bookmakers. There has been a loss of four clothes stores along with five hot-food takeaways.
  • Three pubs have closed.

In total, 79 units are recorded as changing goods category between when the two surveys were conducted.

Since 2014, two new local centres have been built at Sutton Park and Sandymoor in Runcorn and the remaining phase of Upton Rocks local centre has been completed adding additional units.

A report to the council’s Environment and Urban Renewal Policy and Performance Board, which meets this evening at Runcorn Town Hall, said: “Overall, the largest change has been the increase in the number of vacant units.

"This reflects trends seen nationally in shopping habits such as an increase in online retail use, as well as the impact of the pandemic, especially on personal services like hair and beauty.”

At a previous meeting last November, committee member, former Halton Council leader and Bankfield Cllr Tony McDermot, said the borough needed to do its own version of 'levelling up', claiming there was a 'serious problem' developing on estates oustide the main town centres due to the impact of Covid. He told the meeting at the time: "In my ward, every pub has shut, every club has shut, there’s no bank, half the shops are shut."