A TASK force has been created to spruce up the windows of empty shops in Thirsk town centre.

Members of Thirsk Town Council have unanimously voted to unite with Thirsk and District Business Association in an attempt to get a variety of displays, including artwork by schoolchildren, featured in about ten empty premises.

A month after a scheme, Shopjackets, was launched in Ripon to improve the look of the city centre, former solicitor David Tucker told a Thirsk Town Council meeting he had received widespread support for the initiative.

The task force will ask the landlords of Market Place premises previously occupied by Age UK, Johnsons Cleaners, a camera shop, Go Mobile, Julian Graves, a jewellers and the former tourist information centre for permission to install the displays.

They will also approach the landlords of a former gift shop and the Mind, Body and Soul premises in Finkle Street, Chambers in Kirkgate and empty premises in Millgate.

Mr Tucker said: "It really ought to be a nationwide principle that local authorities cooperate with shop owners to enhance the retail area appearance.

"We can now go to managing agents with our detailed scheme, telling them we have lots of support lots of work behind it, and say 'deny us if you dare'."

Councillor Andrew Robinson told the meeting he did not believe many landlords would allow displays in their windows as their priority was to let the properties.

But councillors Janet Watson and Derek Adamson said the displays would be more attractive than windows covered with brown paper or flyposters and could even be used to promote upcoming events in the town.

Traders said they were optimistic the scheme, combined with the takeover of hardware store Woollons & Harwood and the opening of The Pantry farm shop and deli, in Millgate, and Three Tuns Antiques and Curio shop, off the Market Square, would provide fresh impetus to the town's retail economy.

Clare Keel, of Bagby, who will be joined by Rosie Page, the daughter of James Herriot author Alf Wight at the opening of The Pantry in the large former Millgate Antiques premises on Saturday, March 2, said she was confident Thirsk traders could attract good business from its surrounding area.