A TOUCH of London could convert Taunton's shabby High Street into a vibrant area teeming with shoppers under proposals suggested this week.

District councillor Habib Farbahi wants the council to tap into a Government grant scheme to fund a glass roof over a stretch of the pedestrianised area.

He wants businesses and the public to support for his brainwave, which he claims will encourage people to stay longer in High Street.

LibDem Cllr Farbahi believes the multi-million pound scheme would give the area a Covent Garden feel and reverse the town centre's decline. But he needs to convince members on Conservative-run Taunton Deane Borough Council to apply for Future High Street Fund cash.

The Government recently announced it was putting up £675 million to revitalise ailing town centres hit by a surge in online shopping. Local authorities can apply for up to £25 million.

Mr Farbahi said time is vital to meet the March 22 deadline for applications - a decision would then be made by the summer and the roof could be on within two years if funding is approved.

He added: "The idea is to imitate Covent Garden and construct a clear roof partially covered by solar panels, with extra electricity generated sold to the National Grid or used to light the area.

"The area could be used for local farmers or producers to sell their products, and include multiple use such as music and food festivals.

"It would give a sense of uniqueness, encouraging visitors from other parts of the country and add natural flow to the Orchard Centre and Crown Walk.

"It would reshape our town centre and High Street, enhance public experience, help drive growth in other parts of town and ensure long-term sustainability and growth.

"It would create a safe and secure environment and hopefully reduce anti-social behaviour.

"It would lead to prosperity and drive productivity, resulting in increased footfall in Taunton town centre. It would integrate High Street and Vivary Park and support council income through car parking and pitch rentals."

Deane House deputy leader Cllr Mark Edwards (Conservative) said the proposals, which need support from retailers and landlords, would be "carefully considered" before deciding whether to submit a bid.

He added: "I can see some significant challenges in such a proposal and remain to be convinced of the benefits.

"The council is committed to creating a thriving town centre for the people and businesses who live, work and trade here.

"It is already advancing a number of initiatives to enhance the retail environment, help attract investment and encourage business as part of our wider investment strategy for the economic development of the area."

What do you think? Have your say on this story at countygazette.co.uk and the County Gazette Facebook page.