RENTAL rates in Kidderminster town centre dropped by nearly 30 per cent last year, raising questions of how well the town is actually recovering from the economic downturn.

A survey by retail agency Colliers International, published in its midsummer retail report for business property owners and developers, described Kidderminster as one of “the worst performing centres” in the West Midlands – the UK’s “third worst performing” region.

It showed rental rates in Kidderminster town centre dropped by 27.3 per cent to £40 per sq ft between 2013 and 2014.

Conservative Wyre Forest district councillor John Campion, however, said the town was “in transition” and commercial rental rates rising too much could put off new businesses coming to the town.

Cllr Campion said: “This survey is published for commercial property owners and developers so naturally takes comfort from rentals rising in some areas like Birmingham.

“Kidderminster, like many other towns, is a town in transition. Rents will be higher in the newer developments like Weavers Wharf but lower in older parts like Worcester Street.

“The council is committed to regenerating Kidderminster and as this progresses we expect commercial property returns to rise. We would, however, not want rents to rise too much as this would discourage new businesses and make it harder for existing ones.”

On average, rates across the West Midlands region as a whole decreased by 2.3 per cent – the seventh year of decline – but the figures are edging closer to pre-recession levels, with minus 1.2 per cent recorded in 2008.

Birmingham bucked the trend with a rise of four per cent to £285 per sq ft. The UK average saw an increase in town centre rental rates of 1.8 per cent.

David Fox, head of Colliers International, said the figures marked “the first signs of recovery”.Wyre Forest District Council is currently trying to balance attracting businesses to the area and continue major redevelopment projects in Kidderminster town centre – including expanding Weavers Wharf and demolishing Crown House.