FLOWER stallholder Steve Fitzpatrick has handed over the reins of Halesowen Chamber of Trade after 18 years as chairman.

Mr Fitzpatrick stepped down at last week’s annual meeting, making way for office supplies boss Wayne Edwards to take over at the helm.

But the 60-year-old, who has run the Victorian Flower Stall outside the Cornbow Shopping Centre for 28 years, will continue in the roll of vice chairman.

Mr Fitzpatrick joined the chamber 24 years ago and four years later became chairman, a post he has held ever since apart from a period of a couple of years.

He said highlights during his chairmanship included the chamber taking over the Christmas lights 18 years ago when they fell victim to Dudley Council cuts and helping stave off further expansion of Merry Hill to protect town centres including Halesowen.

Mr Fitzpatrick added: “I have enjoyed my time as chairman. The chamber has been involved in lots of events to promote the town and I hope it goes from strength to strength.

“We all work together, but with someone new at the helm they’ll bring in fresh ideas.”

Mr Edwards, who runs Less 4 Office Supplies and print consumables shop Less 4 Ink in Hagley Street, thanked Mr Fitzpatrick for his hard work, describing his length of time as chairman as an “astonishing achievement”.

His priority as chairman will be to work with traders on ways of increasing the number of visitors to the town centre and is currently working on a Keep it Local – Buy Local scheme which he plans to launch in the near future.

The 48-year-old, who is also a member of Halesowen and Rowley Regis Rotary Club said: “I am looking for ways to motivate traders to think about how we can increase footfall in the town.”