BUSINESS leaders have issued an appeal to landlords of empty town centre shop premises to consider reducing their rental demands.

Thirsk and District Business Association members said the ten vacant shops in the Market Place area had become an eyesore and were affecting their businesses.

Concerns over the issue have been mounting since early 2010, when Thirsk town councillor Mo Penson issued a call for the windows of empty premises to be decorated.

At a meeting on the association on Tuesday, members heard the town had stood up to the economic downturn and growth of internet retailing well until 2009, when there were no empty premises.

Members said the rent at one empty premises was £27,000 a year and another landlord was demanding a relatively high rent for a shop that does not have a toilet.

Estate agent Jill Miller said the town’s traders had never faced such high rents.

Members said the large former Aspire bar premises had become a blot on the south-western entrance to the town centre since it closed last year after its opening hours were cut and its live music licence was taken away.

The meeting was told the premises would be suitable for a number of start-up firms to market their goods, in a scheme mirroring the Handpicked Hall venture, launched in October in Ripon.

Councillors in Ripon have said they hope the selection of independent traders in the former Philip Hall department store premises will act as a draw to the city, which is also facing a high proportion of vacant shops.

Thirsk town and district councillor Andrew Robinson told the meeting: “The sooner the landlords realise that people are not able to pay these rents the better."