In the aftermath of the dramatic split from the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce which saw three of York's top independent retailers shearing off to form a rival organisation, Roland Harris today remains steadfastly diplomatic.

Mr Harris is the chief executive of the York and North Yorkshire Chamber, whose board's decision to revert to an earlier stance and support the proposed Coppergate Riverside scheme sparked a walkout led by its retail committee chairman Adam Sinclair, of chinaware specialists Mulberry Hall.

Backed by the likes of Brown's department store and Barnitts which also resigned, plus a host of small independents, Mr Sinclair has launched his own breakaway York Chamber of Trade.

Mr Harris would have been forgiven for raging or starting a bout of well-targeted stone-throwing but his tone is more sad than seething.

"I suppose what upsets me is that in these post-flood times businesses should all be pulling together rather than falling out. It could be three years before anything happens at Coppergate, if at all. Let's get tomorrow right as a priority."

Not, (he says diplomatically and oh-so-fairly) that he would ever detract from Mr Sinclair's valuable involvement in the newly-formed York's Here campaign to let the world know that in spite of some flood damage the city was well and truly open for business.

He knew that those who broke away "care passionately about York, but it is no different from the passion the rest of us feel but only from a different perspective," he says.

If Mr Harris is prepared to open up a counter-attack it is on what he sees as the mistaken notion that York retailers can best be served by a parochial, narrowly-focused organisation.

"One has to put the breakaway into some sort of context. I don't want to get into a scrap because it doesn't serve the interests of the city or businesses, but there are other traders in this city who see the benefit of the retail offer at Coppergate as essential for York's medium and long-term growth and prosperity."

These, he says, included major stores - "who are national chains, but isn't their view just as valid?" - and there was a danger in "choosing a stand-still do-nothing option".

His Chamber's 620 members plus affiliated organisations - a total of around 1,400 businesses spanning retail, manufacturing, service and other ventures - was geographically widespread precisely because the interests of the region were integral with the interests of localities.

"You can't draw a line around York and say that is the end of it. Shoppers, retailers and visitors know no boundaries and freely move about in order to enjoy the benefits of the whole region."

And by belonging to a national organisation it meant that local businesses had clout on the big issues such as excessive bureaucracy and taxation.

The breakaway for local reasons went against the trend. Towns such as Harrogate had asked to affiliate to the York and North Yorkshire Chamber "and we are talking to traders in Knaresborough and Boroughbridge about the benefits of affiliation."

If Coppergate had become such a big issue, he argues, it was because York had become a significant retail centre over the past few years, with surveys featuring York more and more strongly as a shopping destination.

He says: "We have to recognise that shopping has become very much a leisure and family activity. Relate that to York's traditional strength as a tourist attraction and all the indications are that in spite of short and medium term fluctuations the demand for retail outlets by both suppliers and shoppers is growing."

All the studies he had looked at indicated that over the next six years - even if the Coppergate shopping extension was built - the demand for retail space would exceed the supply. Expected growth in jobs in York over the next decade was bound to generate greater demand for shopping choice - "a key factor in terms of the acceptance of Coppergate 2."

IT'S not even a week since the shock resignation of Mulberry Hall owner Adam Sinclair as chairman of the retail committee of York and North Yorkshire's Chamber of Commerce effectively split the organisation in two. And yet, already, reconciliation is in the air.

In an exclusive interview with Business Press today, Mr Sinclair stressed there was no animosity between the two rival chambers - and that he continued to have great respect for Chamber of Commerce chief executive Roland Harris. "He's a very nice man and he works very hard for the chamber."

Mr Sinclair admitted it was vital that his breakaway Chamber of Trade continued to co-operate with its competitor and with other organisations in the city on issues such as the York's Here campaign to let the world know York was truly open for business after the floods.

There would be no attempt by the Chamber of Trade to 'canvass' members of the rival organisation, he said - its work would be complementary to, not in conflict with, that of its competitor. And he even held the door open for a possible re-amalgamation of the two organisations.

"We are very keen to explore ways of associating ourselves or amalgamating with the York and North Yorkshire Chamber of commerce in future," he said. But before doing so, he insisted, the breakaway chamber would need assurances that the York and North Yorkshire chamber would give 'focused representation' to retailers in York - and that it would adopt a more independent stance towards City of York Council.

Mr Sinclair stressed while Coppergate may have been the issue which finally drove him to resign from the York and North Yorkshire chamber, it was far from being the only factor.

Retailers had to be represented by a body which was willing to stand up to the council and take a different position on issues where appropriate, he said.

He had also for a long time been unhappy with the ability of the Chamber to represent the interests of independent retailers in York itself, he said - because its responsibilities were spread too wide.

"How can they focus on York city centre when they are trying to represent the whole of North Yorkshire from Harrogate to Whitby?" he asked.

The new Chamber of Trade had for the first time enfranchised many business in York that had previously not been involved in a chamber - and that meant that in future the city's businesses would be a far more effective and powerful voice.

"It means we will be able to get more done, more effectively and more quickly, because we've got more private sector participation in the process of making York more attractive," he said.

Issues that needed tackling, he added, were better Christmas lights and better co-operation with York Tourism Bureau to promote the city.

Decent Christmas lights, he said, were the key to York's future continued success as a shopping destination. While too late to make a difference this year, better Christmas lights for future years must be a priority.

"We have in York one of the most beautiful shopping destinations and it is a great shame that we don't have a partnership across the city to achieve good Christmas lights," he said.