AN inquiry examining the future viability of a district’s market towns has highlighted concerns over empty shops.

As it emerged Hambleton District Council had applied for a share of the £675m Government Future High Streets Fund to improve vacant premises above shops in Northallerton, the results of a four-month study by the authority’s scrutiny committee revealed North Yorkshire’s county town had a lower empty premises than elsewhere in the district.

Members of the committee said it was vital that the authority did not focus efforts on just Northallerton, where 6.9 per cent of premises are vacant, as the rate in Stokesley was 9.6 per cent, Thirsk was 10 per cent, Easingwold 10.8 per cent and Bedale 11.6 per cent.   

Nevertheless, the four-month inquiry found all the district’s market towns appeared to have suffered less from the emergence of online shopping than many other areas with lower shop vacancy rates than the national average of 12.7 per cent.

The committee’s deputy chairman Councillor David Hugill said: “The thing that really frustrates residents and shoppers is to see empty shops and that is something we are working hard to make sure doesn’t happen.

“Northallerton and our other market towns have less empty shops than would be the average, but we still really feel it could be better.”