Nationally the Christmas trading period was tough for many major high street traders. However there have been some positive news for smaller communities where specialist shops have performed better than the larger stores. Here in Shepton, the Town Council sees real opportunities for our town centre, with its mix of shops and mainly Shepton-based businesses.

We view our high street as a key economic and community priority – whether providing Christmas lights or summer flower displays, or offering finance to resurface the high street or supporting our Sunday markets and community events. In all aspects of regeneration and future development, the Town Council has an important rôle to play.

Recently the Government announced their “Future High Street” fund with £675 million available. This week the Leader of Mendip District Council approached me to discover if the town council is interested in putting in a bid for investment in our town centre. I have responded positively and said we want to work with Mendip in partnership with local business leaders and as many active members of the community as possible.

The Town Council already has a Town Centre Operational Partnership that recognises that our high street is essential to community and economic life. We know we have many challenges on many levels including access issues, car parking charges, and the need to create new businesses. We now have until the end of March to submit a proposal to attract money from this government fund. I am certain that we have the commitment and drive to make an excellent presentation that hopefully will bring a substantial investment to our town centre.

This week I am attending a meeting to discover the progress of plans to resurface Town Street and the Market Place. Again the Town Council is working in partnership with the County and District authorities with the aim to, at last, get a surface that is both safe and aesthetically pleasing.

I am determined that all councils work together positively for the benefit of Shepton. I think we have been successful in developing stronger partnerships across all the confusing levels of local government in the last couple of years, and this must continue if we are to benefit our community.

The Town Council must take the lead on economic and community projects, and year on year, more and more is being expected of us. We must be aware that as the Town Council takes more on, we need to increase our capacity to deliver these improvements.

Chris Inchley, Chair, Shepton Mallet Town Council