INDEPENDENT shops in Taunton have the ability to take on and beat competition from the internet, a Government minister said today (Thursday).

Jake Berry, the minister for housing, community and local government, was in town as part of the Great British High Street initiative to celebrate "everything that's fantastic" about Taunton an high streets in general.

He said he was so impressed that it's just the sort of place he'd bring his family shopping - although he'd have a few hundred miles to drive from his north west constituency of Rossendale and Darwen and would hope not to get a puncture, as he did on his way to Somerset this morning.

Mr Berry said: "It's my first time in Taunton.

"I've been struck by how varied High Street is - the retailers; the farmers' market, with local producers bringing products direct from the farm gate to the consumer; cultural aspects such as the theatre, cricket ground and refurbished museum.

"This is the sort of place I'd absolutely come back to with my family to go shopping."

Mr Berry admitted traders face huge challenges from online shopping.

But he added: "It's something all these individual, independent shops in Taunton High Street should embrace as well.

"They have the ability to take on and beat the internet.

"We all have our part to play in supporting our High Street.

"There's a challenging environment, but the spirit of the town and the retailers need to decide what they can do to face this challenge together."

Asked if there was a need for more shops in Taunton as proposed on Firepool and Coal Orchard, Mr Berry said: "There's a conversation between the leader of the council and retailers and that's going to continue.

"It's ultimately something that's got to be determined locally."

Mr Berry was in town at the invitation of Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow to help promote the Great British High Street competition.

She said: "I wanted the minister to see exactly what's going on here and how we love Taunton.

"There are so many wonderful things about it, so many special people who live here, the friendliness and many attractions.

"But there's a feeling we need to pull all the different areas together - the arts, sports, theatre - to make one really good story about what is Taunton so that we can secure our position for the future.

"There's so much competition for retailers online with internet shopping and bringing the minister down here was a way of getting some ideas and advice about what help we can get from the government."

Ms Pow said issues such as internet sales "not paying tax", allowing 'pop up' shops to use empty premises were being looked at.