Worry as shoppers drawn away to Harrogate

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Shoppers continue to be attracted to Harrogate with retailing in the spa town in “very good health” a new study finds, but it also warns other parts of the district are lagging behind and need to attract more high street names.

The survey, which looks at shopping habits and the long- term prospects for retail across the district, finds both Ripon and Knaresborough need to attract larger chain stores if their respective high streets are to prosper. Harrogate’s town centre in contrast is in good health “with excellent representation from high end national retailers and independent operators”.

Ripon has a good range of services and a below average number of empty shops, but “its comparison retail offer is relatively weak and the recent loss of national multiples from the city centre points to its vulnerability”.

The report authors say Knaresborough is an attractive market town with good-quality shops but is considered to be under-performing and vulnerable to the strength of nearby Harrogate.

The findings are revealed in a report to Harrogate councillors and come as the authority yesterday revealed plans to invite businesses across the district to have their say on the council’s economic priorities. The talks will focus on the economy as a whole.

The Let’s Talk Business event, which will take place in the King’s Suite at the Harrogate International Centre on Monday, October 20, and Ripon Town Hall on Thursday, October 23, will start at 9.30am.

It will give local companies, sole traders and organisations with an interest in the district’s economy a chance to give their views on what the council’s priorities should be in the future. Contributions will help shape a five-year action plan.

Wallace Sampson, chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “The council’s primary objective is to support a strong local economy. Local businesses are able to provide us with invaluable ideas as to how we can achieve this.

“It is important that the council works with the business community and offers support however we can.”

To book your place visit www.harrogate.gov.uk/businessevents.

The retail study, by Peter Brett Associates, recommends that a supermarket is offered in Knaresborough, while in Ripon it recommends building modern retail units in the city centre that would be attractive to high street 
stores.

The report notes that the proportion of charity shops in Harrogate is below the national average and in June 2013 it had 46 empty shops, 8.5 per cent of all units, lower than the UK average. However, council figures put the rate at 7.9 per cent.

Ripon had a vacancy rate of 9.4 per cent, while Knaresborough town centre has a rate of 9.3 per cent.

Council figures put the Knaresborough rate of empty shops at 8.7 per cent.

The report also identifies sites that may be suitable for developing in future as the authority puts together a revised planning blueprint.

It says in Harrogate a key 
development site is at Station Parade.

Comment: Page 12.