THE BRADFORD district has the highest number of empty commercial properties in the UK, according to new research.

UK fibre broadband specialist Glide made Freedom of Information requests to local councils, to find data on unused space across the UK.

It says that Bradford Council has 7,908 unoccupied business premises, topping the list ahead of Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool. This figure means that 4.5 per cent of all empty commercial properties in the UK are in the Bradford Council area. Bradford also had 2,610 empty residential properties, the research says, which is the 10th highest in the country.

Overall, Bradford ranks 5th in the UK for the highest number of empty properties, with its vacant homes and commercial spaces amounting to a combined total of 10,518 unused buildings in the district.

The data, collected in September, is perhaps damning to the north of England in general - all but three of the ten councils with the highest number of empty buildings are northern.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: "The Council is working hard to reduce these numbers. Our multi-award winning Empty Homes team has been recognised as one of the best in the country. In the last 10 years, 3,223 long term empty properties were brought back into use.

"Our City Centre Growth Scheme has brought 104 vacant properties back into use and the Council is also investing in the city centre, including our new market development on Darley Street. This project will remove redundant space and replace it with a high quality market and public square.

"There are some positive signs that the district's economy is on the up: Bradford was named this year's top improver in PwC's Good Growth for Cities index and has had the biggest growth in advertised salaries of any major UK city. In 2017, analysts from Barclays bank named Bradford as the best city in the UK to start a business."

Mike Cartwright, of Bradford Chamber for Commerce, said: "Having unused space is bad for the economy, but it’s not so simple to criticise the owners.

"It's likely that many of these sites have become unfit for use, and they are now expensive to bring back into use. Also, Bradford has many empty listed buildings, probably included in these figures: there is, of course, a case for heritage protection but buildings remaining empty for years is to no one's benefit. We know there's a need for more land to be allocated for employment use, as highlighted in our 2018 report, 'Creating Space for Future Success' – but the existing spaces are unsuitable."