Shop vacancy rates reached an all-time high in February, new research reveals.

According to the latest Local Data Company’s (LDC) latest barometer of shop vacancy rates, 14.6% of UK stores are empty. This is the highest rate recorded since the monthly survey began in 2008.

Town centre vacancy rates had stabilised at 14.3% during the latter half of 2011 but since then showed a steady increase in January - with 14.5% of premises found to be empty - and rising again in February to its current rate.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said the government must act to turn the growing tide of closing shops. “The latest increase is not unexpected as post-Christmas occupancy levels drop and retailer failures continue with Game Group, with 600 shops, the latest,” he said. “It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond to the Portas Review this month, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country.”

Director of policy at the British Property Federation, Ian Fletcher, also called on the government to act quickly. “It’s crucial that the government responds to Mary’s review with a menu of recommendations next week that local people, councils and businesses can ‘pick and mix’ to help start to reverse the damage that many of our high streets have suffered,” he said. “Our high streets need vision, trade and investment, and landlords therefore welcomed a key recommendation from the Portas report in December that allow property owners to match the funding that retailers put in to Business Improvement Districts - successful vehicles that allow traders to come together to plan and fund improvements in their area.”

LDC also plans to release a ‘town tool kit’ that it hopes will empower all stakeholders on the key insights of a town such as occupancy, vacancy, footfall and consumer needs.