Town centre vacancy rates have increased over the past three months, a new study has revealed.

According to the latest BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor, the national town centre vacancy rate in the UK was 11.9% in April 2013, up from 10.9% in January 2013, the highest rate since the survey began in July 2011.

Northern Ireland proved to have the highest vacancy rate, with 18.1% of premises recorded as empty. Wales followed close behind with a vacancy rate of 17.9%, while the North & Yorkshire recorded a 14.1% vacancy rate. The Greater London area and the South East had the lowest rates in the UK at just 7.4% and 9.8% respectively.

The report revealed that footfall in town centres during April 2013 had increased by 1% compared with the same month in 2012.

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said the rising vacancy figures should spur the government to act to help town centres. “It’s a major concern that the vacancy rate has reached a record high, driven by increases in almost every part of the UK,” she said.

“With high streets topping the agenda for many now, there’s a real opportunity here to seize the moment and stem the tide of further closures. Comparatively small steps to tackle deep-rooted issues such as parking, accessibility and rising business costs could make a huge difference to the health of town centres.”