By Jonathan Davies

Towns in the north of England are home to twice as many empty shops as cities in the south, according to the Local Data Company.

One in five shops in the north are empty, compared to just one in 10 in the south.

But there was widespread "marked improvement" across the country with vacancy rates at 13.3%, well below February 2012's peak of 14.6%.

The worst region for empty shops in the North East - with 18.6% of its shops empty in the second half of 2014. The North West had been the worst performing in the six years since the start of the financial crisis, maintaining a vacancy rate of 18.8%.

London, on the other hand, is the best performing region with just 8.7% of shops empty.

Matthew Hopkinson, Local Data Company director, said that 20%, or 10,000 shops, tracked by its research had been empty for more than three years.

"This is the equivalent of five Manchesters lying empty," he said.

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