Changes have been made to a scheme which sees independent retailers in Test Valley receive grants from the borough council.

Following a vote by the cabinet, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) now has the ability to lower Independent Retailer Grants from the current level of £1200 each to an amount of its choosing, provided there is additional support from the local authority.

The move mainly affects businesses using the BID emporium in the Chantry Centre, who will be given £250 grants instead of £1200 as the council is providing rent-free premises for them in the unit.

The shared unit was first announced back in November, occupying a unit opposite from the Toy Arena in the Chantry Centre. Work has been underway since then to make the space ready for its grand opening.

Six businesses have signed up so far, including Wessex Spirits, The Andover Tap, CJM Eyewear, Junction Road Curiosities, Eitri Forge and Sweet Ideas.

Under grant rules as they stood, they would have been eligible to apply for a £1200 grant in addition to the rent-free space they currently have in the Chantry Centre if they had not previously received them. They will now receive a one-off £250 grant.

Councillor David Drew, the TVBC’s economic development & tourism portfolio holder, said these grants were “really important”.

“It demonstrates the council’s commitment to town centres,” he said, “and it was only a few months ago we updated our independent retailer grants.

“However, the challenge we had was working in conjunction with the BID in the incubator in the Chantry Centre as we were enabling retailers to have rent-free space but we didn’t know what to do if they put in bids for the grant, as £1200 seems a lot if we’re giving them free rent but we wouldn’t want to give them nothing.

“We’ve looked at a revised proposal where they get a reduced amount of £250 cash in hand which will enable us in future to review allocations where we were providing additional support.”

The motion was seconded by Cllr Phil North, who said: “Another benefit of buying the chantry centre is not just facilitating redevelopment but the ability to be more flexible in terms of getting businesses in there and I’m glad the BID has been able to help us achieve that.”

In future, the rules allow the economic development officer to determine applications with the portfolio holder, as well as reduce the grant when other support is being provided.

Following discussion, the proposal passed without dissent.