WINCHESTER city centre is recovering well from the impact of the Covid pandemic, a committee heard.

Footfall and parking income are almost back at the levels of spring 2020 and shop vacancy rates are half the national average.

Cllr Lucille Thompson, cabinet member for business and culture, told the business and housing committee: "It is a really good news story. Footfall is almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Shop vacancy rates are half that compared to other parts of the country.

"Maintaining the vibrancy of the High Street and throughout the district is a very important factor in how residents feel about where they live."

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She said the council is hoping to secure £1m in Government funding from 2022-2025 to build "pride in place" and were seeking councillors' ideas.

The city centre had seen a net loss of 14 businesses but new traders were moving in such as Oliver Bonas on the High Street and Giggling Squid in The Square.

Vacancy rates are improving. In April 2022 it was 8.5 per cent, down from 9.3 per cent in April 2021 and pre-Covid of 5.4 per cent far lower than the national average of 14.4 per cent, reports Retail Gazette.

On footfall, data collected by the Business Improvement District, reveals that in April 2019 the average weekly footfall in the city centre was 28,402; in April 2020 as Covid restrictions bit it was 8,064; in April 2021 it had recovered to 21,741 and last April it was 27,936, only 1.6 per cent down.

Car parking income across the district is only three per cent down on pre-Covid: April 2019, £471,000; April 2020, £56,000; April 2021, £275,000; April 2022, £455,000.

In the market towns the council says it is aware of only one business closure in Alresford, two in Wickham and two in Bishop's Waltham, according to a report by Andrew Gostelow, tourism and economy service lead. But there have been five openings.

The council received £222,000 in recovery grants from the Government spent on projects including the Lights festival, the outdoor cinema in Buskets Yard next to the bus station, vacant window dressing such as at Debenhams.

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