RESILIENT businesses in York rallied together after the floods of 2015 in a bid to rebuild their future.

What started out as a small group of indepedent operators has since grown to a network of more than 200 who actively support and promote each other.

Indie York is needed now more than ever in the face of increasing pressure on businesses from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson advised millions of people not to venture out of their homes, leaving small businesses in limbo about the future.

National chairman of the Federation for Small Businesses, Mike Cherry said: “These consumer-facing businesses were already seeing a significant downturn in custom, and now they face losing all of it. Crucially this has happened at a time when the Government’s support for these businesses has been announced but is not yet available.

“Substantial and swift action will be needed for these firms to survive, many of which are at the heart of local communities. While it is right that public health decisions are the top priority right now, small hospitality businesses would be better served by a more formal temporary shut-down. This would activate business interruption insurance or help them achieve a full rent holiday from their landlord."

When Britain pulls through the coronavirus crisis, organisations like Indie York will have a big role to play in helping to promote the city's small traders.

The group is a not-for-profit association, with a constitution and elected committee members including a chairman - Johnny Hayes, and treasurer, Andy Masheder.

Johnny said: “We have gone from a hand-to-mouth existence to more than 200 members. York is now a city of independents. About 65 per cent of businesses in York are independently-owned. People forget how important the independent sector is to the economy in York.”

Johnny is the man credited with making Bishopthorpe Road a national name, leading the shopping parade to the title of Britain’s High Street of the Year. He and his wife Frankie ran Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop, selling cooking goods and gifts, as well as Pextons hardware shop which, in 2009, won the award for Britain’s Best Hardware shop from the British Hardware Federation.

“In York, we are a Medieval, Georgian and Victorian city," he said. "We don’t have businesses or shops that were purpose-built. They tend to be in small premises which suits independents.

"That’s why it has been so buoyant. It is the USP for York. People come here for the history and scenery but I say they also come for the atmosphere created by this huge variety of independents.

“It is important at the moment that people don’t feel isolated because the truth is when you are an independent you live in a bubble. You open the doors and hope for the best. If we can work together we can support each other. It really helps.”

Johnny said a highlight of the 2020 calendar was a planned Independence Day.

“With coronavirus we might be looking at Yorkshire Day, on August 1. Our intention is to get people out of the focus of Parliament Street and do a treasure hunt and other events that take them around the city. We will trial it this year with a view to it being an annual event.”

Johnny said they were not competing with the big chains. “The chains are crucial. We help them and they help us. It is a synergy."

Indie York has a newly-launched website which features an interactive map, highlighting independent operators in the city.

More work is also being done to support businesses in different parts of York, with moves to establish traders associations in geographical clusters.

"With the high street we have to do our utmost to keep the city vibrant.

"It is not just the city centre; the outlying areas are particularly at risk. They need to attract people locally.”