TWO thirds of former BHS stores in the North-East remain closed a year on from the demise of the once proud high street name.

Three sites have been snapped up by other retailers – the Hartlepool branch being rapidly occupied by B&M, Arcadia’s Outfit brand taking over the Newcastle site and Sports Direct and USC relocating to BHS’s former Sunderland branch.

While they remain vacant currently, work is ongoing on converting the Middlesbrough store on the corner of Linthorpe Road and Newport Road into a Flannels, Sports Direct and USC, while the Gateshead Metrocentre store is due to become a Next.

But three more remain definitively empty with no significant development so far, including Darlington, which retail expert Graham Soult said was “definitely in the worst shape”.

The Northgate store, which first opened in 1935, closed in August last year with 27 staff losing their jobs, including some who had more than 30 years service with the company.

The store, which now sports a broken window panel, was stripped of its fixtures and fittings in its last days during a closing down sale.

Commenting on its sorry state, Mr Soult, who runs a North-East based retail consultancy, said: “It features a warning about asbestos inside and a logo that BHS supposedly replaced in 1995.”

Mr Soult, who recently suggested that Darlington Borough Council should “get on the phone” to retailers such as H&M in a bid to fill empty units left by the likes of BHS, added: “The problem is that for sites like these, the pool of potential occupants – ones that are not already represented locally, but might wish to be – is very limited.”

The three floor property, which comprises 34,390 square feet of space, was marketed for sale as a freehold retail investment by property agents Knight Frank back in 2015.

But a spokeswoman for the firm said it no longer had involvement in the site and it is currently unclear whether there are any plans for it.

Elsewhere, former BHS stores in Durham and South Shields complete the list as still being empty and without tenants.

Recently the Local Data Company, which tracks occupancy and vacancy rates across all of the UK’s main shopping destinations, said 82 per cent of BHS’s 160 former stores were still unoccupied.

That figure drops to 60 per cent or 96 shops when stores which have agreements in principle for the space to be taken, or are awaiting planning permission for redevelopment, are taken into account.

Matthew Hopkinson, a director with the Local Data Company, said: “The traditional retailers who would have occupied a BHS, many of them have gone to out of town retail parks and shopping centres.

“Many of these [BHS] units [are] also very large, with multiple floors, and costly to re-occupy.”

A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said: “We are not aware of any plans that the owner of the unit might have at this time, but we would be more than happy to meet with any potential investors and discuss how their plans can be facilitated in Darlington."