Fears have been raised about an iconic Scarborough road that is fast becoming a no-go area for visitors and businesses.
More than half a dozen units now sit empty in Northway, with the majority being owned by the international insurance giant Zurich.
Traders are blaming high rents and business rates for the proliferation of ‘for lease’ boards displayed on the side of buildings as the area fast becomes the poor relation of the town centre.
Steve Dickinson ran a business for 10 years in Northway before moving his Mojo’s Music Cafe to Victoria Road.
Mr Dickinson said: “When we started up in Northway it was like it was now with quite a few empty units but the Co-op, which was the landlord back then, were helpful and managed to get businesses in.
“Then Zurich took over and the rents and fees kept on going up.
“They are not much different to the town centre but Northway does not get enough people walking down it to make the money back.
“Some of the properties there have rents that are now touching £20,000, there is no way you can hope to run a business there with those margins.
“The only people who can afford that are people wanting office space. There is no chance for shops, especially when big companies can sit on empty units and not be bothered by not getting any income from them.”
The concern over the future of Northway comes in the same week as an influential committee of MPs has called on the Government to help businesses fill empty units.
The business select committee’s retail report, published on Tuesday, urged the Government to fundamentally reform the rates system and introduce a total amnesty on small retail businesses moving into empty property for six months.
“Without a wholesale review, resulting in a new way of calculating Business Rates, the High Street—and with it community hubs attached to those centres—will fester,” the report said.
The situation in Northway is in stark contrast to the fortunes of nearby Hanover Road, which through investment from the borough council had a number of empty shops brought back into use.
Cllr Janet Jefferson, the president of the Scarborough Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said: “The difference with Hanover Road is that the council owned a lot of the properties so there were things that could be done to bring it back into use. When it is in the hands of someone else the council’s hands are tied really.”
Mrs Jefferson echoed the thoughts of Mr Dickinson that offices alone may be the future of the beleaguered road.
She added: “I think Northway could be a place where people start businesses before moving on to other areas in the town once they get established.
“For whatever reason people just don’t visit that road to do their shopping so offices are the type of business that make sense.
“It is a shame as many people who come to the town end up driving down Northway. The sight of all the ‘for lease’ boards and shops sitting empty does not create a good first impression.”
Zurich had not responded to a Scarborough News request at the time of going to press.