Tadcaster and York are open for business - that was the message today from business and tourism leaders concerned about the impact of national and international media coverage of the floods.

Business owners and Mayor Stephen Cobb say Tadcaster has been like a ghost town since the River Wharfe flooded on Wednesday and the bridge closed amid fears it might have suffered structural damage.

Dave Stainthorpe, owner of Cyclesense, a specialist bike shop in High Street, said trade had been ‘atrocious’ since people had heard about the floods and bridge closure.

“We are probably 75 per cent down,” he said. “On a Friday morning, we normally have a flurry of customers. Today we have had two.”

He said customers, for example one who had rung up from Boston Spa, wrongly believed they might not be able to drive to Tadcaster, when the only problem was crossing the bridge.

Coun Cobb said: “It’s like a ghost town but people need to know the town is open for business.”

Mel Pratt, partner at Calcaria Carpets & Furnishings in Commercial Street, has put out a sign at traffic lights at the Wighill Lane junction, saying: “Businesses open down hill.” He said it had been ‘really quiet’ since the floods. He said he was clearing up after being flooded and was able to trade.

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of York’s tourism organisation Visit York, said it had taken a series of steps to correct misperceptions that York was totally flooded, for example emailing all visitors who had booked an imminent stay in York to reassure them and using social media to get the message out that more than 95 per cent of the city is unaffected, with the Food and Drink Festival going ahead as planned.

“We are doing everything we can to reassure the public that there is no need to cancel or postpone any plans they may have to visit York in the coming days,” she said.

“All attractions, shops, bars and restaurants in York remain open, with the exception of those few which are located by the riverside, where there has been localised flooding.”