AN MP has rubbished a report which states Rayleigh High Street is struggling.

Mark Francois, Tory MP for Wickford and Rayleigh, has leapt to the defence of the high street after the Echo revealed yesterday how it was deemed one of the “least healthy” in the country.

This was the view of strategic retail property consultancy Harper Dennis Hobbs, who put together the Vitality Index.

Mr Francois isn’t impressed at all.

He said: “I have never heard of this firm and as anyone who has ever been to Rayleigh can tell you the report is absolute rubbish.

“At a time when many high streets are struggling Rayleigh has one of the most vibrant high streets in the whole of Essex, with barely an empty unit anywhere.

“The old warehouse store in Eastwood Road, off the high street, is empty but I understand it’s being converted into a microbrewery.

“I am minded to invite the authors of this report to visit the microbrewery when it opens, which means they would have to visit Rayleigh and I can tell them to their face about their inability to organise something in a brewery.”

The retail consultancy firm Harper Dennis Hobbs said it uses a number of factors for the report including the level of retail vacancy and the number of so-called undesirable tenants in high streets, like money lenders.