A NATIONAL café chain has become the latest casualty of Durham’s high street.

Pret a Manger, in Silver Street, has announced it is closing on Thursday.

The cafe joins a number of chains leaving the street, along with Marks and Spencer’s, which is closing in April, and the already shut Krispy Kreme and Greenwoods, which went out of business last year.

Pano Christou, Pret a Manger’s managing director, said: “Sadly our little shop in Durham will be closing on Thursday 29th March.

“We’ve enjoyed our time in the city and we’d like to thank our customers for their support. Our amazing Durham team have been offered new jobs at Pret.”

Work is now ongoing to come up with a strategy to see what can be done to tackle the growing number of empty units in the street.

Adam Deathe, engagement manager for the Durham Business Improvement District, said: “We’re working with Durham County Council and retailers on a survey and engagement strategy with the private sector. While all the units are in private hands we can facilitate engagement between agents and retailers and we are proactively working on that.

“It’s something we can’t turn around overnight unfortunately and we are competing with market forces as well.”

He added: “There is a lot of investment coming in. It’s unfortunate we have a lot of vacancies on Silver Street but it’s not reflective of the city as a whole.”

“We have a number of businesses coming into the Riverwalk and Elvet Bridge has really turned around over the last 18 months. That was in the same position as Silver Street is at the minute and its now a centre for a lot of independent traders who are doing very well.”

Revd Arun Arora, from St Nicholas’, in the Market Place, described the lack of strategic oversight in the city as “worrying.”

He added: “There is a danger that if this trend of shop closures continues that the high street will be slowly ripped out of the heart of Durham to be replaced by empty units speaking of former glories.

“Without a sustained strategic intentional response the unique qualities of Durham City centre are at risk of a slow and inexorable decay.”

Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “The news that Pret-a-Manger will be closing its store in Durham is yet another blow to the residents in the city and surrounding villages. Following on from the announcement of the closure of Marks and Spencer’s, this will leave Durham City and Silver Street in particular, with far too many empty units.

“Durham should be the key location for retail and leisure in the county, but unfortunately a number of businesses are leaving the city centre.

“I have already met with senior council officers to discuss the importance of ensuring Durham remains an attractive proposition not only for businesses, but for residents, tourists and visitors alike.”

“I will be raising these issues at the next Durham City Board meeting, and will continue to press the local authority to do everything it can to encourage retailers to remain in Durham and to attract new businesses to the city .”

Psyche, a Middlebrough fashion store, is opening in Silver Street on Friday, in the former Cafe Rouge.

No announcements have been made about a new retailer for the the M&S store after it closes next month.