Town centre shop vacancy rates rose by more than 40 per cent in Accrington in the second half of 2010, according to a survey.
The Local Data Company report found the town has one of the highest town centre vacancy rates in the UK, with 22.5 per cent of shops lying empty at the end of the year.
The vacancy rate was up from 15.9 per cent from mid-2010 and the report places Accrington 16th in a list of ‘medium sized’ centres nationwide for the highest vacancy rates.
Only Blackburn, of similar sized centres (200-399 shops) across east Lancashire, had a higher vacancy rate, at 25.5 per cent. Morecambe was the highest with 30 per cent.
Accrington also had the 14th highest vacancy rate of all town centres in the north west.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: "These new figures show that council plans for local business are in tatters.
"There is quite clearly no strategy for growth. The council have previously boasted that their policies were better than those of other authorities but clearly these policies have failed.
"Accrington town centre is one of the biggest local employers and is simply too big to be allowed to fail."
The report concludes that the recession continues to have a major impact on town centres across the north west region, which may get worse during 2011. Only the Yorkshire and Humber area had a higher rate of empty outlets.
The report states: "The Centre for Retail Research expects around 10,000 shops to close in 2011 as retailers reduce the size of their portfolios in light of further economic pressures."
Comparisons with previous year’s figures are not provided, as the Local Data Company changed its methodology in mid-2010 to include shopping centre vacancies.
But Phil Bond, president of the Hyndburn Chamber of Trade, said the figures may be slightly misleading as they may include shops on the outskirts of the town.
He said: "There has been a lot of investment in the town centre lately and several new shops have opened up.
"When compared to other centres like Blackburn, which is also struggling, Accrington is doing well. Twenty per cent in Accrington is very different than 20 per cent in Blackburn as it is a bigger town."
Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "This report confirms what we already know, that it’s been a hard trading year due to the coldest December for a century and the impact of the recession.
"However, the good news is that Accrington is doing better than a number of near neighbours with bigger shopping centres."
He said they were doing all they could to invest in the town centre, adding:¿"The report says 2011 will be another tough year but we are ready for the challenge and will carry on making sure Accrington punches above its weight in Lancashire."