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Councils must "act now" to safeguard the future of their high streets by setting aside a percentage of empty shops for small local businesses.

The number of store closures on the high street has rocketed over the past 12 months, new research shows.

Shop vacancy rates across Britain reached "something of a turning point" in 2012 as the proportion of empty units declined on an annual basis after rising for the past three years, according to a new report.

Over 1,400 stores have been left at risk of closure or have already shut their doors after a disastrous month on the high street, with recent administrations threatening to push the national shop vacancy rate to a record high.

Shop vacancy rates remained steady at 14.6 per cent in March, according to a new report.

Large high street chains closed an average of 14 shops a day last year, new figures have revealed.

High streets in the South East are "performing well in difficult circumstances" - although some areas are blighted by rising numbers of vacant shops.

London has generally low shop vacancy rates compared with the rest of the country, although some centres are suffering with high numbers of empty units.

Lancashire has two towns in the country's ten worst performing areas for shop vacancy rates, according to a new report.

Stockport has the worst shop vacancy rate in the country, according to a new report.

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Five Minutes With

David Hughes sums up his entrepreneurial career to date thus: four spectacular successes and two failures. He founded the sports retailer Allsports and achieved turnover of £180 million before a vicious price war meant decline, administration in 2005 and a sell-off to rival JD Sports.

It took Richard Shonn, managing director of 151 Products, three years to find a warehouse big enough for his requirements.