Global shopping centre development development is at an all time high as the expanding middle class in emerging markets is leading to unprecedented levels of construction, according to global property advisor CBRE.

Research found that there are some 29.6m square metres under construction, equivalent to all of the combined existing space in France, the UK and Germany, while some 7.8m square metres of new space opened in 2011.

Emerging markets like China, Turkey and India are far more active than the more mature markets of Western Europe and North America.

In 2011, new shopping centres opened in 63 of the 180 cities covered by the survey, of which 50 were in emerging markets. By contrast only five cities in Western Europe saw the opening of a new centre last year.

Half of all of the shopping space under construction is in China, with Asia accounting for 70% of all schemes being built. Outside of China, the most active markets are Abu Dhabi, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur (Klang Valley), New Delhi and Sao Paolo.

"It is our view that shopping centre development activity is currently at an all time high, with growing middle class populations, particularly in the BRIC markets, fuelling this demand," said CBRE head of retail research Neville Moss.

"The shopping centre concept, once the preserve of the western world, is becoming ubiquitous. China has led the way in recent years and with huge opportunities still existing in its secondary cities, it is likely to remain the most active development market over coming years. However, the upsurge in development is also evident in Turkey, Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam among others.

"Meanwhile, the maturity of the retail sector in western Europe and North America has resulted in much lower levels of development, but it has also forced retailers from these markets to seek new opportunities in fresh markets in order to grow their businesses. This trend is expected to continue and is helping to underpin the development of high quality, new retail space in emerging markets."