INDEPENDENT traders say they are helping to save York’s high street - as more national chain stores prepare to close their doors.

York Independent Business Association - or Indie York - says that two thirds of the city centre’s businesses are now independently run, and they’re doing their utmost to ensure it has a positive future.

The Press revealed yesterday that Gap’s store in Davygate is to shut in October and the Dorothy Perkins/Burtons store in Coney Street is set to close next month.

It has also emerged that Van Mildert’s shop in Blake Street is to shut and other chain shops have also closed in recent months, including French Connection in Davygate, LK Bennett in Low Petergate, Whistles in Stonegate and Crabtree & Evelyn in Stonegate.

But Indie York chairman Johnny Hayes says that while the big chains are closing, independent businesses are doing all they can to buck the trend of a declining high street.

“They are a crucial part of any city centre and independents recognise this, but it is the independents that are increasingly providing that something individual and special that the chains cannot always provide,” he said.

“It is the independent that is attracting people to visit the high street, as the internet erodes the power of the chain store.”

He predicted that in 20 years, there would probably be no banks in city centres, many big chains might have disappeared and vacancy rates would probably have risen steeply, and York was not immune from this changing scene.

“So we need to prepare for that change and look afresh at our city centre,” he said.

“We need to look at the way we use our city centre buildings. We need to think about converting these buildings back sometimes to their former use as places to live and work.”

He said Indie York was formed in the wake of the 2015 floods with half a dozen members, and now had 200, and it had recently received grants from York BID (Business Improvement District) and from City of York Council that would help it build for the future.

It was hoping particularly to help local independents in Goodramgate to set up a Goodramgate Traders Association in the autumn.

“Goodramgate is a lovely street but has quite a few vacant shops and businesses,” he said.

“But it has been really improving recently, with quite a few new independent businesses moving in.

“A number of businesses have expressed a desire to form a traders association, as has been done on Bishy Road, Fossgate, Micklegate, Gillygate, Stonegate and various other places around the city.”

Indie York treasurer Andy Masheder, who owns Monk Bar Model Shop, said York BID and City of York Council had both given it a £10,000 grant.

He said the money would allow it to employ a part time administrator and upgrade its website and create more local trade associations.

Johnny said it was not just the city centre which could benefit from traders associations but local parades of shops as well. “Acomb and Haxby have set up traders associations that have made a big difference,” he added.