10/09/2013 06:24 BST | Updated 10/09/2013 06:28 BST

Betting Shops, Cafes Replace Empty High Street Shops

A customer enters the Woolworth's store in Portabello in Notting Hill gate London just before it closed Saturday, Dec. 27 2008. More than 200 Woolworths stores across the UK are about to close their doors, signaling the chain's final days on the High Street after 99 years .Barring any last-minute rescue, the remaining 600 stores will follow suit by 5 January and 27,000 permanent and temporary staff will lose their jobs. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Betting shops and cafes are popping up to replace empty shop stands, while the number of empty units on British high streets has remained roughly the same, official figures show.

The overall vacancy rate on high streets has sank by just 0.1% over this year to 14.1%, equivalent to around one in seven outlets standing empty. However, British shops have fared differently across the country.

Vacancies on high streets in large centres fell to 13.5% from 16.2% last year, with a decrease to 11.9% in medium centres (from 15%) and 9.2% in small centres (from 10.6%), according to a report from the Local Data Company.

However, this decrease in retail vacancies was offset by a surge in empty units in retail parks from 8.1% to 9.6%.

Shopping centres have the greatest level of empty sites, with a marginal improvement of just 0.1% to 16.2% over the year.

The number of vacant units in the UK's top 650 shopping areas is 22,339, equivalent to 23 Sheffield city centres.

LDC director Matthew Hopkinson said: "Restaurants, bars, cafes and even betting shops have come to the rescue as the growth of leisure takes off in our town centres."

The latest retail figures come as TV shopping guru Mary Portas and business veteran Bill Grimsey have fought over their competing analyses on how to save British high streets.

Grimsey warned in his report that thousands of independent shops were in danger of closing in the next few years, branding Portas' high street review, commissioned by the government in 2011, as "little more than a PR stunt".