Empty space on retail parks increased by its fastest rate for four years last year due to casualties in the retail sector, according to new research.

Retail failures including Comet, JJB Sports and Peacocks helped raise the vacancy rate for UK retail warehousing to 9.9% at the end of 2012, up from 9.1% six months before.

This is the biggest rise since 2008 and the highest vacancy rate since the middle of 2010 according to the data published in retail property research consultancy Trevor Wood Associates’ annual Definitive Guide to Retail and Leisure Parks.

Trevor Wood Associates noted the figures do not take into account the collapse of retailers including HMV, Dreams and Blockbuster in the first three months of this year.

The North recorded the highest vacancy rate at 13.7% at the end of 2012, up from 10.2% six months previously. Northern Ireland’s vacancy rate rose to 12.7% from 9% over the same period, with Scotland rising to 11.9% from 10.4%.

The only region to see its vacancy rate fall was East Anglia, dropping from 9% to 8.2% in the second half of 2012.

Despite the increase in the availability of second-hand space, Trevor Wood Associates also points out there have been retailers expanding to fill some of the voids.

The research showed value retailers including B&M, Dunelm, Family Bargains and Home Bargains have been among those looking to take out-of-town space alongside the likes of Kiddicare, Marks & Spencer, Oak Furnitureland and TK Maxx. These eight retailers have taken an additional 2m sq ft of retail warehouse space over the last 12 months.

TK Maxx also entered the UK’s top ten retail park tenants by space occupied, with B&M and Sports Direct joining the top 20. B&Q remained top followed by Homebase and Currys.

The total amount of retail warehouse space grew 1.6% over the last year to 178.7m sq ft. Of the 1,506 schemes reviewed by Trevor Wood, 16.7% have development plans, which include demolishing, refurbishing or dividing units as well as building new space.