YORK’s high street is still in a strong position despite the alarming number of shop closures, according to the boss of the local business district.

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, was speaking out after it emerged yesterday that new data from the Local Data Company showed that York has been the worst affected area in the UK for chain store losses, with 55 outlets closing - including Boots, Patisserie Valerie and two branches of Subway.

He said that while the data was “not good to read”, York’s vacancy rate remains lower than the national average.

Speaking to The Press, he said: “Statistics such as those from the weekend are not good to read.

“Over the past few years, York has had one of the highest shop occupancy rates in the country, so with our baseline traditionally so strong, it will naturally make headlines when we have a fall like that reported.

“What the report did not highlight, is that the current York vacancy rate of 11.5 per cent, is still well below the national average of 13.3 per cent. Also, since the study was finalised in August, some of those units, especially the smaller ones, have new shops in them.

“The weekend report was focusing more on larger chain stores and I am realistic that these larger units, which attract costly rent and rates, will take longer to fill whilst we suffer the effects of the pandemic."

Executive member for economy and strategic planning at City of York Council, Cllr Andrew Waller, said: “There has been a negative impact due to chain store HQs based outside of the city making decisions on properties compounded with distant landlords based outside of the city.

“There is now a move to get more decisions made locally, and more supportive of the independent shops in the city which have become the strongest part of the retail sector.”