High Street vacancy rates increased during the first half of 2012, according to new Local Data Company figures.

In its report, ‘Too Many Shops’, it revealed  the vacancy rate increased to 14.6% for the first six months of 2012, up from 14.3% from the previous six months.

All regions bar London saw an increase in the number of empty shops with the North-West showing the highest vacancy rate (20.1%). Wales suffered the largest increase, with the rate of empty shops growing from 17.3% to 18.5%.

Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson said the report shows that “the issues still have some way to go before we see stability and positive change”.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the British Property Federation, called for a fresh approach to tackling the issue of empty shops. “Our towns face complex structural problems which are not going to be solved by tinkering around the edges,” she said. “We need to have a complete re-think about how vacant property could be redeveloped into new uses.”

Responding to the figures, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged the government to continue to focus on ensuring the future of the high street.

“Vacancy figures show an on-going challenge to find ways to ensure that town centres remain relevant to the communities that they serve,” Lowman said. “This is about effective planning policy that is based on well considered long term plans. Ministers must remain focused on the reforms they put in place in March and not seek to make further changes to national policy as has been speculated.”

The Local Data Company’s figures came under fire from the Association of Town Centre Management who labelled them “flawed”. Chief executive Martin Blackwell said: “They use an out-of-date set of criteria for establishing town centre boundaries and, as a result, they don’t reflect the reality on the ground.”