TOWN centre bosses insist the economic future of Fulham Broadway is ‘far from bleak’ despite the departure of two major shopping chains and uncertainty over a number of empty units.

Large stores belonging to Blockbuster, in North End Road, and HMV, in the Broadway Centre, are soon to become vacant after both chains went into administration, while Union Market, which also belongs to the centre, is still empty 18 months after it went out of business.

The much-anticipated arrival this summer of Whole Foods into the building formerly occupied by the Blue Elephant restaurant has now been delayed until 2014, while a planned ‘shopping emporium’ at the Town Hall has yet to receive planning permission.

Despite the recent opening of restaurant chain Byron, other eateries and bars have gone, including the recently shut Belushi’s and Vintage, as well as long-standing empty units belonging to Empire and the Kiwi Kitchen.

The departures of HMV and Blockbuster were announced months after a Chronicle investigation which found at least 35 shops in nearby Dawes Road are either boarded up or have been turned into flats.

In October the Broadway Centre said there was ‘interest’ in taking over Union Market, which went out of business due to high rents, but it has been unable to offer an update since.

Morrisons supermarket is to takeover nearly 50 HMV shops but has yet to confirm which ones.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council says the situation isn’t as glum as it appears and that it is working with firms like PopUp Britain and Appear Here to rejuvenate empty units and provide ‘affordable’ spaces for start-ups.

Insisting companies still see the area as an attractive proposition, Cllr Robert Iggulden, the local authority’s ‘business champion’, said: “The number of commercial properties lying vacant in Hammersmith & Fulham is well below the national average, and a recent report placed H&F as the third best borough for economic performance in London...

“The future is far from bleak for Fulham Broadway as new companies continue to invest in the area - popular restaurants Byron, Manuka, Wagamama, Knouz, and independent deli and café Labi have recently opened, while Whole Foods is coming to Fulham Road very soon.”

Nicki Burgess, Fulham town centre manager, said evening and leisure economies remained strong but that the closures were a reflection of the national economic downturn.

She added: “We are doing everything we can to make sure our shops do not remain empty and that the town centre continues to thrive by working with local retailers and landlords to looking at new and innovative projects to bring premises back into use as well as supporting events and activities which help bring more shoppers to the area.”