THE vibrancy of the city centre is a subject close to my heart. Retail and hospitality are massive employers in the constituency and contribute hugely to setting the tone of the city.

I am sensitive to the concerns of those who observe creeping homogenisation in the national retail landscape and are fearful that Salisbury will go the same way.

However, while proposals that damage the attractiveness of the city centre should be judged on a case-by-case basis, it remains true that Salisbury has one of the lowest levels of vacant shops in the country and still possesses an exceptionally diverse and high quality range of independent shops and cafes.

A year ago, the government set out cuts in business rates, benefitting all ratepayers and worth almost £9 billion over the next five years. Times are changing and the rise of ecommerce means that traders in some sectors face a struggle to attract and retain loyal customers.

Policy plays its part but supporting independent businesses with our custom remains critical.

I was particularly pleased to attend the official launch of Fisherton Warehouse at the weekend – an independent retro-themed café and trading floor housing 40 plus exciting businesses under one roof.

Fisherton Street traders occasionally tell me that they feel unjustly forgotten and I hope that the Warehouse’s rock ‘n’ roll vibe will bring a new vitality to that end of town and remind people that there are independent treasures tucked away all over our city.

Meanwhile, this week sees Salisbury’s rail commuters bracing themselves for yet more disruption due to walk-outs over driver controlled trains. It is hugely regrettable that talks have broken down and I condemn any industrial action that will affect passengers’ journeys, not least because these strikes are completely unnecessary.

DCO trains have been safely operated on our rail network for over 30 years and it is already known that there will be no compulsory job losses and as many services will have staff on board as they do today.

With conductors no longer closing the doors, this frees up staff time to provide a more visible presence on trains. In addition, The new generation of trains being rolled out over the coming months are built to operate with DCO. These trains will benefit passengers by having greater capacity and more seats.