BUSINESS leaders in Hambleton have declared the economic downturn is over, while their counterparts in Richmondshire are optimistic about stronger trading conditions.

Almost five years after the start of the global financial crisis - which first touched North Yorkshire and its surrounding area when Northern Rock collapsed in September 2007 – many traders in the area are reporting turnovers as having risen between 10 and 15 per cent in the past year.

They say while the public sector economy has recently been hit by a chain of blows with the impending closure of Northallerton Prison and the loss of the Rural Payments Agency in the town, the private sector has been bouncing back after a lengthy difficult trading period.

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Accountant Guy Baragwanath, chairman of Thirsk and District Business Association, said: “The economy is definitely picking up and I expect the majority of businesses to see turnover rising by more than 10 per cent next year as well.

“If we looked at Thirsk 18 months ago it was all doom and gloom, but it has been a good summer and we are hopeful about the run into Christmas.”

He said it would take up to two years for businesses to reap the benefits of cutting their overheads, but the majority of firms he dealt with were showing a marked improvement in profits.

Emma Smailes, development manager for North Yorkshire at the Federation of Small Businesses, said its recent survey showed traders’ confidence had grown over the year.

“We have had reports that sales and exports have increased, which has helped businesses feel able to take on members of staff or invest in their company.

Councillor Carl Les, deputy leader of North Yorkshire County Council and its financial services boss, said within his Leeming Bar Services hotel, café and petrol station business he had seen a rise in discretionary spending - a key indicator of the state of the economy.

Coun Les said: “There are still pressures on household budgets, but I have detected a mood of optimism among the business community.”

Hambleton District Council has recently launched a study to examine the state of the area’s economy.

Its leader, Coun Robson said: “It is a positive sign that the economy is starting to pick up, it is clear the housing market has seen an upturn in Thirsk and Soweby, and I am sure it is a case of firms cutting their cloths and working accordingly.”

Colin Bailey, chairman of the Dales Business Forum, said he could see a mixed picture and despite some traders reporting that sales were improving, others were still facing difficulties.

“Traders have waited the economic downturn out as best they can, but I’m not sure we can be as bold as to say we have come out the other side yet.”

Chairman of Richmond and Lower Swaledale Business Association Philip Wicks said the signs were promising and he hoped a good Christmas would cement a strong summer for traders.

He said: “We are seeing green shoots, but it has been a very deep recession and the economy is still not as large as it was before the downturn.”