Doncaster town centre footfall still below pre-pandemic levels but number of empty shops decreases

Footfall in Doncaster town centre is still not on par with pre-pandemic levels but the number of empty shops has decreased.

Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 8:52 am
Doncaster town centre

New figures show year on year percentage comparisons to 2019 shows the town centre has experienced a 20.5 per cent reduction in footfall, which is worse than the Yorkshire average of 15 per cent.

But council bosses added that footfall ‘has not returned equally’ with Baxtergate, Market Road, and High Street responsible for the bulk of footfall growth.

Whilst still showing improvement, pedestrian movement on St Sepulchre Gate is ‘lagging behind’.

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New stats show the busiest hours for footfall have also changed. DMBC bosses said there has been a ‘noticeable drop’ between commuting hours of 7am and 9am as well as during the times of 3pm and 6pm.

This is being explained by a reduction of workers being based in or travelling through the town centre.

Public transport usage in the borough is also said to be 32 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels and with the borough’s major bus and rail infrastructure in the town centre, bosses added this is ‘likely to have contributed to a reduction in overall footfall’.

The void rate in Doncaster has improved on pre-pandemic levels, at the start of the pandemic, Doncaster town centre’s void rate was 20 per cent.

Bosses said ‘despite a perceived impression’ that Doncaster town centre is full of empty shops the void rate ‘dropped significantly’ to 16 per cent (as of August 2021) which they said ‘performs well against the national average of 18.4 per cent.

Work has been concentrated on certain areas of the town to reduce the impact of empty shops.

Back in 2019 Scot Lane had a 20 per cent occupancy rate and the council purchased three empty units.

As well as carrying out work to promote the street to independent businesses, the street is now over 80% occupied with the latest tenants, a gin bar and a new restaurant opposite the Mansion House opening before Christmas 2021.

Andrew McMahon, economic centres project manager, said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has severely impacted on Doncaster town centres footfall, this change has been driven not only by lockdowns or changes in consumer habits but on the reduced number of commuters travelling and workers no longer being primarily office based.

“Whilst Doncaster does not compare positively in this snapshot period (from 2019), it should be noted that in the January 2021 to August 2021 range Doncaster was performing above the national average.

“This sudden drop can be partially explained by differing factors such as academic calendars, major events returning elsewhere and weather differences.

“There has, however, been continuous footfall growth since restrictions were eased in April 2021.”