High street collapse: footfall in Anglia region drops by a quarter in decade

The number of people visiting the region's high streets has fallen by almost a quarter in the past decade.

Exclusive figures for ITV reveal the scale of the problem across the East.

In the last decade (2009-2019), the number of people visiting high streets in the Anglia region has fallen by 23.5%. This is higher than the national average of 20.5%, according to the Local Data company, who produced the figures for ITV's Tonight programme.

The number of shops in our town and city centres is falling too.

Across the Anglia region, as of November 2019, 10.8% of shops are vacant. That's around 3300 units.

That’s lower than the national average but at least 970 of those have beenvacant for more than three years.

Between 2016 and 2019, the percentage of vacant shops across the Anglia region has risen from 9.4% to 10.8%.

Between 2016 and 2019, the number of shops vacant across the Anglia region has risen from around 2,900 to more than 3300, an increase of at least 400 more empty shops.

High street Credit: ITV Anglia

Retail experts say the way we shop has changed - and that could spell the end for the traditional high street.

I think retail dominated high streets are over. This is a 30 year demise. Out of town shopping was the first thing to really change the model and then online has turbocharged the change. The era of retail dominated high streets is coming to an end.

Vidhya Alakeson, retail expert
Marks and Spencer Credit: ITV Anglia

Towns and cities which until recently had an M&S store also saw the number of vacancies rise after many of their stores closed.

The figures will shock many local council leaders, many of whom are aiming to entice people back to the high street.

The makeup of the region's shopping experience is changing too.

Across the Anglia region, 63% of shops are independents while 37% were chains. In our region, we've lost nearly 500 independent retailers in the last five years.

Reinventing high streets as civic space, where people can have a reason to come together, to come to the centre of town will be important, but it's got to be more diverse than retail.

Vidhya Alakeson, retail expert

The Government say they're investing in town centres across the UK through their Future High Street Fund.

The £1billion fund is part of their plan to "re-energise and transform" the high street.

Great Yarmouth, Northampton, King's Lynn and March have each been awarded a hundred and fifty thousand pounds. They could go on to get millions from the government's Fund.

50 towns across the country are already shortlisted for the fund - hoping to progress to the next stage of the process to get a chunk of that money.

Harlow, St Neots and Clacton are still hoping to get approval.