Vacancy rates on the high street hit a record 14.6% in February.

The Local Data Company (LDC) reports that there are the highest percentage of empty premises in the UK since it began releasing monthly figures in 2008.

LDC said vacancy rates have risen in January in February after a stable end to 2011.

The LDC said the increase in empty shops was “not unexpected” with retailers down-sizing their store chains and facing tough economic conditions.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: “It is a timely reminder to the government, who are due to respond to the Portas Review this month, of the significant challenges facing town and city centres up and down the country.”

The figures echo sales data from the Office for National Statistics published yesterday. It said sales volumes declined by a 0.8% in February on January’s figures.

LDC is drawing up a Town Tool Kit to help the Government understand problems on the high street.