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New economic strategy launched in face of pandemic recovery

Test Valley Borough Council has launched a new interim economic development strategy for the next two years to help the local economy recuperate following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last night, at a cabinet meeting, councillors voted to approve the strategy, which sets out how the authority will help support businesses, boost the economy and look to the future for its town centres.

The strategy, which will run until 2023, highlights the environment, tourism and the UK’s complete departure from the European Union as significant factors to consider for the years ahead.

With the borough’s economy enduring a difficult year due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the authority’s plan includes continuing to support local businesses through funding and encouraging those in the town centre to boost their online presence. The council’s Independent Retailer Grant, first introduced in 2013, has been upgraded to £1,200 to businesses who are eligible. The strategy also highlights the need to build a stronger relationship with the EM3 for projects around Andover and Romsey, including the ongoing Town Mills scheme, and developments at the University of Southampton Science Park in Chilworth.

As well as the immediate support for businesses, the strategy includes how the masterplans for Andover and Romsey could help grow the economy in years to come. These plans for Andover include a new theatre, a riverside walk and the redevelopment of the centre itself. For Romsey, there’s the potential for new restaurant space, the enhancement of the Fishlake stream and community space, all of which could help increase footfall.

The council’s plan also looks to build on the clean growth that took place during 2020 with more staff at various business working from home. The authority will also look to build on its environmental targets in the economy alongside the EM3 over the next few years.

Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, councillor Phil North, said: “We are all aware of the frank circumstances that our economy is currently facing, and there’s no denying this is a difficult time. However, Test Valley is uniquely placed to recover from the current circumstances and we are determined to help our businesses in any way we can.

“With many looking to holiday in the UK this year, it is important that we focus our efforts on our tourism offering with some beautiful countryside and the River Test flowing through our borough. On top of that, our work ensuring our environmental standards only increase, and our ambitious visions for both of our town centres mean businesses can still look forward to a bright future in Test Valley.”