The UK shop vacancy rate hit a 14.6% average in the first half of the year as consumer spending remained under pressure, online sales increased and retail space grew.

The level remained unchanged from March’s 14.6%, which was the highest since June 2008, analysis by the Local Data Company (LDC) showed.

The proportion of shops lying empty increased in every region in Brtain apart from London between January and June.

The North West of England was hardest hit, recording a 20.1% vacancy rate.

London was the only place where shop vacancy levels fell. The city had a 10.1% vacancy rate against 10.7% in the same period last year.

Retail parks had the lowest overall vacancy rate, at 8.1%.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said that there was “some way to go” before there was likely to be any positive change in the number of empty shops.

“Fundamental national economic issues are being played out at a local level,” explained Hopkinson.

The Government is attempting to reverse the increase in shop vacancies through plans to scrap pop-up shop restrictions.

British Property Federation chief executive Liz Peace said the survey indicated discussions are needed over the redevelopment of vacant property.

She warned: “The alternative is a period of steady, inexorable and irreversible decline.”

July’s vacancy rate figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed a 11.4% rate against the same month last year, when the level was11.2%.