As construction work progresses on Bradford’s new £260 million Westfield retail mall – due to open by Christmas 2015 – another major shopping centre owner has highlighted improved demand from retailers as the UK’s economic and consumer recovery takes hold.

Hammerson, whose portfolio of 20 shopping centres in the UK and France includes the Bullring in Birmingham and Brent Cross in London, said its occupancy rate was 97.7 per cent last year.

The company's 2.1 per cent rise in net rental income for 2013 was also slightly higher than expected, amid continued strong tenant demand for its shopping centre locations, which attract more than 250 million visitors each year.

Hammerson is set to begin work on a new shopping centre in Leeds this year.

David Atkins, chief executive, said: “We have reported a good set of results in a year when we saw the beginning of economic and consumer recovery in the UK.

“We are seeing improving demand from retailers, and Hammerson is creating the right product to meet their future requirements, which provides the conditions for selected growth in rental values.”

Footfall in Hammerson's UK shopping centres was one per cent lower in the year, compared with a 4.9 per cent decline in France. Retail sales were down 0.4 per cent in the UK and 2.7 per cent weaker in France.

Recently completed developments in the UK include Monument Mall in Newcastle.