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Falling demand for high street shops

According to a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the demand for retail space has continued to drop and is fuelling fears about the future of the UK's high streets.

Rental values are also predicted to fall further as the amount of unoccupied floor space rises the RICS survey shows.

During the last three months of the year, fewer businesses looked to rent retail premises resulting in a steady increase in empty sites across the country, it said.

This fall does not take into account the collapse of three high street stalwarts in recent weeks - HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster.

London surveyors reported the largest falls in demand since the middle of 2009, although Wales and the Midlands fared better - with the amount of interest from potential occupants staying the same.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS' chief economist, said the end of last year was an "incredibly tough period" for the UK's high streets.

"Sadly, this downbeat picture doesn't look like changing any time soon with demand for retail space continuing to drop and more empty premises set to blight the country's town centres," he said.

However there was an increase in demand for office space and industrial units in the last quarter of 2012 - albeit from low levels.

"Only time will tell as to whether this is a genuine sign of recovery, it is encouraging that appetite is gradually growing in these areas as businesses look to expand," Mr Rubinsohn added.

But not all types of retail spaces have experienced the same fall in demand.

British Land - which owns premium retail parks, shopping centres and department stores - said it had experienced a rise in lettings and leases.

In a management statement the company reported "encouraging levels of demand across the business both from existing and new occupiers".

"So despite subdued economic growth, weak consumer spending and an increased level of retailer administrations, occupancy across our UK estate remained high with administrations low," it said.

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