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Concern among Thirsk traders at number of cafes
TRADERS in a town centre featuring more than 20 daytime catering outlets have called on a council to ensure it retains a mix of businesses.
Concerns about the number of retailers in Thirsk have mounted following a plan to change the use of the former Julian Graves store in the Market Place to Olivia's Artisan Foods mixed shop and cafe were passed by Hambleton District Council last month.
Guy Baragwanath, chairman of Thirsk and District Chamber of Trade, said maintaining the town's reputation of having a range of independent shops was vital to attract shoppers from a wide area.
Accountant Mr Baragwanath said: "We want businesses that are going to benefit the town, and while it is better to have some firm in a premises than having it empty, which about seven are, there needs to be a balance and the more mix there is the better."
A meeting of the chamber heard Mark Terry, the owner of Arabica cafe in the Market Place, voice frustration that businesses such as funeral directors and hairdressers were grouped with shops for planning purposes.
He said: "The property use categories are absolutely bizarre and while the council says it aims to have three retail shops to every non retail premises, the classification could lead to a situation in Thirsk where you can't buy anything."
Mark Harbottle, the council's planning manager, said its powers to retain a premises for retail use were limited due to Government property use classifications.
He said:"We want to keep a certain amount of premises in retail use, and it is considered as such as long as a business has displays in the front window and has a genuine retail use with a significant proportion of the inside being used for that purpose."
After hearing traders claim the council's approach to different businesses in the town was inconsistent, Mr Harbottle urged them to voice their views in a £100,000 study the authority has commissioned to examine the state of the district's economy.
He said: "We know that there are a lot of challenges out there related to the economy as well as the rise of shopping on the internet.
"Getting it right is the more important to us than doing it quickly."
Councillor Gareth Dadd said while he would like to see the town's empty premises filled by shops, it was more important to have the vacant outlets occupied.
He said: "Like it or not, town centres have changed. To rigidly stick to retail purposes won't do ourselves justice."
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