TEST Valley Borough Council (TVBC) has agreed to keep its Independent Retailer Grant (IRG) scheme for the next three years.

The IRG scheme was launched in April 2013 to encourage independent retailers to occupy town centre premises that have been vacant for more than one month.

Next year’s TVBC budget will contain a proposal to release a further £20,000 from the New Homes Bonus to finance the scheme until March 2021.

TVBC economic development and tourism portfolio holder, Councillor David Drew, said: “Town centre high streets are one of the most challenging trading environments, especially for new and independent businesses. These grants are a key practical means of assistance for independent retailers, and just one of a number of ways in which we support and invest in Andover and Romsey town centres and their businesses.

“Town centres have been changing from predominantly retail to mixed leisure and service uses.

“However, new and independent traders continue to play a crucial role in the uniqueness of a town.”

The £1,000 grant is paid in two instalments: after three months of successful trading and then after nine months.

Since the scheme began, £27,500 has been awarded, with commitments of a further £4,500.

For more information, go to testvalley.gov.uk/business/businessgrantsandsupport/grantsandfunding/independent-retailer-grant.