Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) has launched a strategy to attempt to help the local economy recuperate following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors approved the plans at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, which set out how the authority aims to help support businesses, boost the economy and look to the future for its town centres.

This involves working with a variety of bodies in Andover to promote it as an investment opportunity, including Andover BID, Walworth Business Park and Andover Vision.

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.”

The plans were discussed at a cabinet on January 13, examining a number of ways in which businesses and the economy could be supported.

In addition to major schemes such as the Andover Masterplan and Town Mills Riverside Park, efforts were to be taken to retain existing businesses such as via the Andover Skills Training Fund, where businesses of over 100 people can apply for half of the cost of training an employee from the council, and the Manufactured in Andover group, which encourages networking amongst companies.

Steps will also to be taken to attract new businesses, with investment in Walworth Business Park encouraged, and encouraging the use of flexible office space in the town centre as well as attracting new retailers, with Andover’s vacancy rate, at 17 per cent, being higher than the national average.

Unemployment is also a concern, with 890 more people claiming benefits since September 2020. On the issue of youth unemployment, TVBC hopes to work with other councils, such as Eastleigh, Winchester and New Forest, to develop a youth hub.

The strategy, which will run until 2023, was passed without dissent.