A group of local businesses are set to receive rent free premises in The Chantry Centre following an agreement between Andover’s Business Improvement District (BID) and Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC).

BID will take over one of the vacant units in the shopping centre, which will provide space, marketing and advice for six to eight businesses at no cost to them.

In return, these businesses must be “committed to Andover,” have a product with an Andover or Test Valley connection and commit their time to running the businesses.

Steve Godwin, BID Manager, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have secured this unit and it provides a wonderful opportunity for a local business who either doesn’t currently have a shop window or is a fledgling business that want to have a town centre presence.

“We work closely with TVBC who are just as committed as the Andover BID to make their top priority to support local businesses as well as the town.”

Andover BID said that several local businesses had already signed up to take space in the new unit and that it was currently looking for three or four more to join them.

The prospect of a new hub for independent businesses was raised in a meeting of TVBC councillors last week, when Cllr David Coole asked the council if they had any plans to introduce a councils-lead emporium in Andover Town Centre.

While TVBC did not commit to running a joint venture with the town council, saying that it was “primarily a BID-led unit,” Cllr Phil North noted that discussions were ongoing with Andover BID regarding the leasing of space.

Coole also asked if national brands would be able to open small concessions within the shop, but North said that the “primary focus is on independents,” who will be able to test the waters for their business.