Romsey’s new mayor Peter Hurst said he will focus on the health of the town centre economy in his inaugural speech.
“I have no doubt that the one aspect of Romsey that has to be preserved is The Hundred... a Market Town without a thriving high street is just a dormitory,” he said.
“There are some indicators that we need to keep an eye on. Are there too many Charity Shops, are vacated shops staying empty just that bit too long. We are down to one butcher, one fruit and veg shop, one baker, and no fishmongers. As I say a long way from crisis but we have to be vigilant. “We need to understand the impact that internet shopping and out of town shopping is having and will continue to have on High Streets generally, and locally we need to understand the impact of the Tesco’s decision and the proposed additional housing.” Mr Hurst, who is also leads the Lib Dem opposition on test Valley Borough Council, said that when he became deputy mayor in 2013 he had assumed the Broadlands Tesco application may have been sold by the time he came into office but that was not the case.
Another big issued which would come to head during the next 12 months will be the borough local plan.
Mr Hurst is one of the all-party group which is working on a Neighbourhood Plan for Romsey and Romsey Extra which will act as an alternative to TVBC’s proposals.
“We will need significant input from all walks of Romsey life,” he said. “But if we do get the Plan through inspection and referendum then it will be, I believe, an achievement of national significance in the development of Neighbourhood Plans and could be remembered for a long time as the document that saved Romsey,” he said.
Mr Hurst, who is a retired civil servant who spent all of his career in the Ministry of Defence, hails from County Durham but has lived in Romsey for 40 years and had served as a governor a Moutbatten School, where his children had been pupils.
His chosen charities for the year will Romsey Opportunity Playgroup and the Gift of Sight Appeal, which supports an eye clinic at Romsey Hospital.
Outgoing mayor Ian Richards received praise from all the speakers at Tuesday night’s mayor-making ceremony. Several commented on the fact that he had been able to find time to get married during his mayoral year and he was also commended for his quick-change talents – one second he was a window cleaner the next moment he appeared in suit and chain of office.
Mr Richards said that one of the themes of the year had been to promote commerce so he was pleased that the council was now employing a town centre manager and had taken on the responsibility of the Christmas lights.
One of his final acts as mayor had been to help organise a civic thank-you for all the agencies, including the military, which had helped fight the floods in Romsey during the winter. The event will take place at Romsey Town Hall next Friday, May 30, and the public will have a chance to come along and thank the flood heroes in person from 1pm.
Dorothy Baverstock, Romsey mayor in 2004, will be the new deputy mayor.