The number of vacant shops in York city centre has risen in the last year - with more than nine per cent of retail space now standing empty.

But one developer aiming to breathe new life into Coney Street in York said there was a "growing list" of national retailers interested in moving into the city - although some of  York's vacant sites were "not suitable for modern retail".

A City of York Council report said that at the end of November 2023, there were 57 vacant shops in York city centre - 11 more than at the end of November the year before.

The most recent figure means 9.1 per cent of city centre shops were unoccupied - however the figure is lower than the national average of 13.8 per cent.

More than two years ago, York-based developer the Helmsley Group submitted plans to redevelop Coney Street - which is often considered York's premier shopping street. in February, Coney Street had five vacant shops.

One of the vacant sites in Coney Street is the former TK Maxx site, which had been earmarked for a branch of the Hard Rock Café.

However, as revealed by The Press on Wednesday, Hard Rock has abandoned the plan - although it says it would still consider another site in York.

York Press: Edward Harrowsmith, director at the Helmsley GroupEdward Harrowsmith, director at the Helmsley Group (Image: Newsquest)

Edward Harrowsmith, Helmsley Group director, said: "Walking around York’s city centre today, we would suggest the details of York city council’s report are no longer reflective of our high street occupancy levels.

"Footfall has returned to pre-pandemic levels and despite the wider economic landscape, the majority of York’s retail and commercial space is occupied and performing well.

"We’re aware of a growing list of national and independent retailers, as well as high-quality food and beverage outlets, keen to occupy space in central York.


"The fact is, much of York’s available space is not suitable for modern retail and requires a collaborative approach from landlords and the council to create units befitting the modern high street’s needs.

"Our Coney Street riverside plans are already having a halo effect on the surrounding area with retailers moving in anticipation of the development and the modern retail spaces it will bring.

"A positive decision from the council on this once in a lifetime opportunity will generate further confidence, provide a clear strategy and reduce vacancy rates even further below the national average over the next few years."

York Press: Phil Pinder, chair of York high street forum and owner of Potion's CauldronPhil Pinder, chair of York high street forum and owner of Potion's Cauldron (Image: Newsquest)

Phil Pinder, owner of Potion's Cauldron and chair of the York High Street Forum, said the current economic climate had had an impact.

He said: "It's sad to see so many empty units in York, which I believe is being caused by developers going into liquidation and those with long term plans not willing to enter into long term deals.

"It's certainly not due to the lack of demand, as we've seen with the plentiful list of new openings and those I know are currently on the hunt.

"Hopefully, we will start to see these units come into meaningful occupation very soon."

Tom Limbert, director of Central Retail, the property consultants behind the vacant Banks Music Room, Krispy Kreme and Fraser Hart, echoed the sentiments of Mr Pinder and Mr Harrowsmith.

He told The Press that the vacant sites are getting interest from national retailers.

Last week it was announced that Thai restaurant chain Giggling Squid has agreed to let and move into the old Banks Music Room site in Lendal.