A report by the New Economics Foundation found that between 1995 and 2000, Britain lost 20% of its local corner shops, banks, post offices, pubs and grocers to the march of globalisation.
Researchers warn that by 2010 there could as few as 100,000 neighbourhood outlets, creating “food and enterprise deserts”.
The report blames government's failure to tackle the domination of supermarkets, which it says accounts for 70% of all food bought in Britain, and the “downsizing” of banks and post offices, weak planning controls and a lack of effort to ring-fence local economies.
Co-author of the study, Ghost Town Britain, Andrew Simms, told The Independent: “Changes in the way we shop, bank and communicate are creating ghost towns in Britain. It's a question of brutal economics.
“When the number of local retail outlets falls below a critical mass, the quantity of money circulating within the local economy will suddenly plummet sharply as people find there is no point trying to do a full shop with an impoverished range of outlets.”
The study says that smaller format supermarket convenience stores have also undermined local economies by providing one-stop shops, with no link to nearby suppliers.
The report suggests that there should be legal requirements for supermarkets to stock a large percentage of locally sourced goods, banks to set up shared facilities in villages and the wider use of informal local “currencies”.
The study predicts that a further 28,000 stores and services will be lost by 2005, contributing to a decrease in local shops of nearly a third over the two decades to 2010.