How Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales is bucking the business trend after coronavirus

While the ongoing high street and Covid crises impact on town centres across the country, community leaders in one Yorkshire Dales market town say it is not only bucking the trend, but its retail offer is growing.

Just weeks after landlords called on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to put an end to business rates on empty retail sites, it has emerged all the empty shops in Hawes in the western area of his constituency have been taken by people desperate to stay living near their families.

Hawes and High Abbotside councillor Jill McMullon said the Covid-19 pandemic had had positive effects for the community in the Upper Dales.

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She said: "The community has come together stronger than I have ever seen before and out of that has come optimism for a new tourism season. People have taken on shops knowing that is going to happen. It is going to be a boom time, I'm sure of it.

Shannon McIntyre, who has opened Feather and Fern florists this week

"There isn't one shop that hasn't been taken over. Even during a Covid crisis we haven't died. We've grown because we're all independents and all it's run by local people who want to stay here and are determined to make things work and the area thrive."

Hairdresser Edie Peacock and beautician Laura Fawcett this week opened The Salon, taking over a shop premises previously run by the late high-profile councillor John Blackie.Mrs Fawcett, who has previously faced a two-hour drive each way to Leeds for work, said: "It is a wonderful thing for the town to keep the shops open.

"It is a really lovely circle that we have taken on John's shop, as he helped both Edie and I when we went back to work to get a grant to buy equipment and for the courses we needed to go on. It's a lovely legacy to him."

Further down the High Street, 20-year-old lifelong Hawes resident Shannon McIntyre launched Feather and Fern on Monday, and like at The Salon, business has been brisk.

Hairdresser Edie Peacock and beautician Laura Fawcett this week opened The Salon, taking over a shop premises previously run by the late high-profile councillor John Blackie

While councils continue to grapple with stopping an exodus of young people from the national park, Ms McIntyre said she would encourage other young people to launch businesses, even during the current economic uncertainty.

She said: "I set up in lockdown so I don't know what it's like not to be uncertain. People have taken to it really well. I think we all assume it's not possible to have a business, but you have just got to put the work in and make it work. At the moment it's working and I feel it can only get better seeing that we are in such a horrible time at the moment."