Vibrant Yorkshire Dales town has best high street in Britain

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The Independent Online

It is not the kind of place you will rub shoulders with the designer-clad wives of Russian oligarchs or battle over Bulgari with brand-obsessed "trustafarians" – but anyone looking to indulge in retail therapy should forget London and head for the tranquillity of the Yorskhire Dales.

A panel of architects, planners and developers named the rural market town of Skipton and its cobbled high street as the best shopping spot in Britain yesterday, fending off competition from Kensington High Street and Portobello Road in West London to win the accolade from the Academy of Urbanism.

While Portobello's chi-chi antiques market was immortalised in the film Notting Hill, and Kensington High Street boasts strolling peacocks on its famous Roof Gardens, neither quite had Skipton's charm, judges said. They said it escaped unscathed from ugly post-war development and had a wealth of historic buildings and a strong community spirit.

John Thompson, chairman of the Academy of Urbanism, said that Skipton, known as the "gateway to the Dales", had escaped becoming yet another "clone town". "It is the character of the people and place that makes Skipton High Street stand out," he added. "When you go there it is such a welcoming place."

The good news was delivered to people in Skipton in the old-fashioned way yesterday, as the stentorian voice of its town crier, Kevin Reid-Griffiths, proclaimed the historic victory over London from the steps of Yorkshire Collectibles to cheers from residents.

Afterwards, he said: "We have a market here most days where you can buy everything from cheese, meat and vegetables to car parts and telephones. There are some really good independent shops and some of the bigger stores and the banks. Prices are not bad at all." David Goldie has been selling outdoor clothing from his shop in the High Street for 28 years and believes local retailers have thwarted the advance of supermarkets by offering great shops and personal service.

"Business is still good for us because if you need a new pair of Wellingtons or a new coat because they are letting in water you just can't put it off."

Other awards saw Richmond in North Yorkshire named the best town, while Bristol was voted the provincial city of the year. The best neighbourhood trophy went to Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter.