City traders and business leaders have leapt to Truro’s defence after a national study named it as the UK city with the highest number of empty shops per head.

The study by online supermarket Britsuperstore pointed to the loss of Lakeland and a Warren’s Bakery branch as a “major blow” to the high street, adding: “Once bustling with life, high streets in Truro and across the country now stand as a haunting symbol of economic decline.”

However, much of Truro bears the signs of regeneration. The King Street unit that housed Top Man is currently subject to a planning application on behalf of White Stuff, while Tesco has applied for a premises licence for the former Lakeland store.

The empty Wilko store was snapped up by Mountain Warehouse as its largest UK outlet, and new café The Snug has opened in Tippetts Backlet.

While two hair salons from New Bridge Street have moved into Nalders Court, their vacated units have been filled by new wellbeing businesses.

“This is a huge sign of our strength and independence,” said Sian Knights, communications officer at Truro Business Improvement District (BID), who dismissed the study as “distorted”.

Art gallery Livingstone St Ives opened last Thursday and enjoyed busy footfall over the Easter weekend. Owner Alicia Livingstone praised the city’s dining options, free public toilets and plentiful parking.

She added: “It’s delightful to sit alongside the Hall for Cornwall, the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro Cathedral and high-end retailers.

“Truro offers our clients a perfect location to visit us with ease and pleasure.”

Data from Rightmove and Zoopla was used to identify the number of commercial retail properties available for rent across 69 UK cities. A calculation was then made against the population of each city to determine the average number of properties available per head, rounded up to 100,000 inhabitants.

Truro’s figure came out at 90.6 empty shops per 100,000 people - seven times the national average. As Truro has a population of around 20,000, this works out at 18 empty shops.