Welcome to Britain’s most stark ghost town – where one in three shops is empty.
Burslem, in Stoke-on-Trent has a shop vacancy rate of 31.5%, nearly three times the national average of 12.2%.
Where once stood a bustling array of local traders, many buildings are now boarded up, left to decay and a magnet for graffiti artists and vandals.
Business leaders say the town has been left deserted due to the demise of the once thriving pottery industry, which gave the area its nickname, as well as the impact of Brexit.
In recent years, Burslem has seen the closure of its historic indoor market as well as a glass museum and around 30 shops in total sit empty.
Amit Patel, 42, who has run the Booze and News Convenience Store for nine years, believes there is no incentive for new businesses to set up in Burslem.
“There are too many empty shops – far too many,” he said. “Every month, I’m looking at it and saying ‘this shop is going, that shop is going’, it goes on and on. Now there’s nothing here any more.”
Patel said parking was a big issue, with double yellow lines “everywhere”.
He added: “If people want to go to a shop for a pint of milk, they don’t want to pay for an hour’s worth of parking.
“When it is so difficult to park, and when there are no banks, there’s no attraction to come here.”
The shopkeeper said people were drawn to nearby Stoke city or Newcastle-under-Lyme, where there is free parking.
A study by the Local Data Company showed the alarming vacancy rate for shop premises in an 11,000-strong community.
It was compiled by visiting 2,700 towns and cities, and also revealed the number of shop openings in the second quarter of 2017 has fallen by 80%.
Traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ town centre shops have been struggling to compete with out-of-town megastores and also the boom in internet shopping.
Independent councillor Alan Dutton, who represents the Burslem Central ward of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said the decline of the potteries has contributed to the shocking figures.
He said: “The fact of the matter is that Burslem is not what you would call a ‘destination town’.
“I think we have been working to serve the people that live and work here, rather than looking to bring in new people.
“That’s a mentality that maybe we need to change now.
“During the heyday of the potteries, this would have been a hustling, bustling place to go.”
He said once the pottery industry went, nothing had been lined up to replace it – and that remains the case today.
“There are still empty factories where the potteries would have once been, and you could easily convert those into houses and add an extra 4,000 pairs of legs,” he said.
He wants to see landlords lower rents to encourage business to take and risk and attract more shoppers.
The British Retail consortium said high business rates and out-of-town shopping centres were behind the nationwide decline of high streets.