Weekly column by Stroud District Council leader Catherine Braun. 

LAST week I met with representatives from the district’s market towns to discuss the council’s support for the ‘shop local’ campaign and to update on our engagement with Visit England, Visit Britain and others to promote tourism.

The Discover Stroud Trails app that we developed last year now has over 2,000 users.

It showcases hidden gems in our towns with walks and guides across the area, and it’s free to download.

As Natalie mentioned in this column last week, many of our towns are busy preparing for Christmas events.

Dursley, Nailsworth and Painswick hold their Christmas lights switch-on / goodwill evenings this Friday.

Berkeley, Stroud and Wotton-under-Edge events take place the following Friday and Saturday, and there are numerous markets and craft fayres every weekend to enjoy the festive spirit.

There’s a full list of Christmas events across the district on the VisitStroud.uk website, provided by the Stroud & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.

As the Chamber notes, it’s worth resisting seasonal temptations from the big online retailers, since each pound spent with a local independent shop is a seed sown in the town.

The local economy will be in focus at our Strategy & Resources Committee meeting on Thursday, where we’ll discuss a new Market Towns Vitality Fund, to be developed in partnership with the towns in preparation for next year’s budget.

This new fund aims to help our local towns respond to the impacts of recent economic challenges, such as the closure of bank branches, and to increase footfall and the visitor economy.

We’re also looking to support the local economy in Berkeley to make it easier for people to access the town centre and will be discussing a proposal to provide extra spaces at the Marybrook Street carpark, in addition to the recently approved EV charging points.