MORE chain shops closed in Bradford than anywhere else in Yorkshire last year, new research shows.

The city centre suffered a net loss of 17 shops in the first full year since the opening of The Broadway - the sixth worst decline in Britain - according to an annual report measuring the health of British high streets.

There had already been concern at the plight of long-established shopping areas such as Darley Street and the ‘top of town’, with customers increasingly shopping online or sticking to the area around The Broadway.

But the new PwC research, compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC), shows the scale of the problem, with a total of 36 chain outlets closing and just 19 opening between January and December last year.

The KFC branch in Tyrrell Street and the unit shared by Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Burtons in Darley Street were some of the more prominent retailers to shut their doors last year.

Val Summerscales, secretary of Bradford District Chamber of Trade, said the loss of shops “probably would have been expected, with the opening of The Broadway” but said various initiatives to boost the city centre should hopefully start to have a positive effect soon.

All but six of Yorkshire’s cities and larger towns saw an increase in empty shops, with analysts saying the growth of online retail was partly to blame for a declining high street.

Across Britain, nearly 900 stores disappeared from the high street, the highest losses since 2012.

Mike Jervis, retail specialist at PwC, said this was likely due to “structural changes in customer behaviour”, adding: “Fashion is migrating to online at a faster rate than ever, leaving closures in its wake.”

Last year, Local Data Company director Matthew Hopkinson told the Telegraph & Argus that Bradford needed a smaller high street.

Since then, Bradford Council has unveiled a plan to demolish its Oastler shopping centre for housing and move the market down to the empty Marks and Spencer unit in Darley Street.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, who leads on regeneration at Bradford Council, said it was worth bearing in mind that the report didn’t include independent retailers, “which Bradford had seen a number of open in the last year”.

He said Bradford’s position in a league table of retail destinations had jumped 29 places, “but of course we’re aware of the challenges remaining in the city centre”.