Towns awarded a £1.2m grant in a bid to boost retail growth have lost 17% of their shops in five years, according to research commissioned by the BBC.
Following the government-funded ”Portas Pilot” scheme in 2012, the 12 towns to receive a portion of the grand have seen a net loss of almost 1,000 shops, equating to losing one shop every 22 days.
Research by the Local Data Company found that all but three of the pilot areas -which were Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Greater Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees and Wolverhampton - saw shops selling clothes and electrical goods decline in the period.
Vacancy rates in 10 of the 12 town centres have also fallen as other businesses moved in or units become out of use.
Celebrity retail guru Mary Portas, who offered advice to those awarded the grant, labelled the scheme a “weighted PR campaign” in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours:
“That didn’t happen. It was a weighted PR campaign which looked like ‘hey, we’re doing something’ and I hoped it might kick start something - but it didn’t.”