West Bromwich town centre about to change, say chiefs

Change is coming in West Bromwich say business chiefs after the town was named as having among the highest number of shop vacancy rates in the country.

Figures released by the Local Data Company show that 26.6 per cent of shops in the town are empty.

It means West Bromwich is the second worst performing of medium-sized towns in the country.

Ninder Johal, vice president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, however said he believed West Bromwich’s prospects would soon improve as the newly-launched £200 million

New Square shopping centre has a wider impact.

The development is co-anchored by Tesco Extra and Primark and also includes popular high street stores such as Next, Sports Direct, JD Sports and outfit, as well as an Odeon cinema.

It also includes a Greggs, Harvester, Real China, Nandos and Prezzo, and an Odeon Cinema.

Mr Johal said: “I think the economy is improving and people generally are beginning to have more disposable income.

“The Tesco New Square scheme has also been a success and I believe we will start to see that spill out in the next few years.

“I think once West Bromwich has its new leisure centre, there will be a general feel-good factor and that will filter down to the shops.”

Average vacancy rates in the West Midlands stood at 15.9 per cent last year, meaning it ranked as the third worst region after the North East and North West.

The regional figure was down from 16.2 per cent in 2012, but still above the national average figure of 12.2 per cent for 2013 for Britain’s top 650 town centres.

Neighbouring Walsall had the highest number of empty shops in the Midlands and the seventh highest overall in Britain last year.

The number of vacant shops stood at more than one in four – or 26.7 per cent – in 2013.

It had increased 1.3 per cent in a year, statistics from the Local Data Company have shown.

But council chiefs in Walsall today criticised the figures, claiming major regeneration schemes were taking place or were poised to start in the town in the near future. Regeneration chief

Councillor Adrian Andrew said the multi-million pound transformation of Old Square Shopping Centre, which will see a new Primark and Co-op open, was now under way and planning permission had been given to the £11 million St Matthew’s Quarter development.