KINGSGATE is good for Huddersfield.
That's the verdict of a major report on the retailing fortunes of the town centre since the £50m shopping complex opened 18 months ago.
The report by Kirklees Council said the economic performance of the town centre as a whole had been boosted by Kingsgate.
Critics had argued that Kingsgate would attract shoppers only at the expense of existing town centre stores.
They also feared that retailers leaving their existing premises to move into Kingsgate would result in a rash of empty shops.
But the report suggested that Huddersfield had largely prospered from the "Kingsgate Factor".
The study revealed that the proportion of vacant floorspace in prime shopping sites had fallen to 5.7% from 13.8% since Kingsgate opened.
There had also been an increase in the number of clothing and footwear shops and specialist "niche" retailers.
The study reported "continued growth" in the number of shoppers and visitors to the town - with a 16% increase in "footfall" since March last year.
And it said visitors were now staying longer - and spending more.
Kirklees Council planning officer Steve Morton said: "There continues to be a strong demand from retailers and leisure outlets wanting a presence in Huddersfield.
"And there is a growing level of optimism among a variety of businesses and developers that Huddersfield is becoming a key investment location."
Recent additions to the town included fashion chain Monsoon, which opened its Huddersfield store six months ago.
Lisa Anderson, the manager of the New Street store, said: "We had a very successful opening and we have been very busy since."
David Whittle, managing director of fashion store Peter's in King Street, said: "A lot of retailers migrated into Kingsgate when it opened and there were a lot of empty units. But that has largely been mopped up now.
"There are more people in the town and a lot of that is down to Kingsgate."
Town centre manager David Wyles said the report "justifies the confidence we had that Kingsgate would bring more shoppers to Huddersfield".
Clr Andrew Pinnock, Kirklees Cabinet member for regeneration, said: "The town centre has substantially benefited from Kingsgate, in terms of the economy and the environment."
But he said there was no room for complacency, adding: "The council will continue tackling issues such as litter, vandalism and graffiti."
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