Converting empty shops into schools could give retailers an alternative way to exit unwanted leases, according to building consultancy EC Harris.

The firm has calculated that making use of an existing building would slash the cost of building a new school by 36%, while giving retailers a way to exit empty shops.

EC Harris said there is a “clear need for a greater focus on what works; doing more with less; more remodelling and refurbishment and above all, genuinely creative design and commercial solutions”.

EC Harris’ head of retail Catherine Tobiasinsky said: “Approximately 1 in 8sqft of retail space is currently empty.   We need to look at space we already have and how we can get the best from available assets. 

”The rise of vacant retail space is hurting retailers who are caught in leases but can’t get out, and investors who are not receiving rent and who are having to pay the business rates. Further, retailers are having to make large provisions in their books for this space they don’t use so this creates a huge burden on the balance sheet.”