A pioneering project to help independent businesses stay afloat has been launched in Barnes - and everyone has to aim to spend £36-a-week.

High rents, low footfall, empty shops and a dominance of estate agents caused the economy in the town to suffer in recent years, Barnes town centre manager Emma Robinson said.

Despite Barnes having a butchers, a fish monger and cheese shop, residents said competition from supermarkets and online shopping was making it easy for people to forget they are there.

A new project put together by the Barnes town team and economist Robert Sadleir analysed the relationship between spending patterns and the survival of independent businesses to help businesses fight back and keep the high street booming.

The research found if people aged 18 or over spent £36-a-week in shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants, they could ensure the vitality of local businesses. The figure has been named the Barnes Responsible Spend.

Ms Robinson said the idea of the scheme was to encourage people to think more about what they spend, where they spend it and how they can change their spending habits to benefit local businesses.

She added: "It is all about getting the message across and getting people just to spend a few pounds here or there. Residents love the independent businesses in the uniqueness of the shopping area in Barnes and it is about communicating to residents if we don't spend the money, then they will lose the shops."

Mr Sadleir, who lives in Barnes, said the high street in the town was the focus of the community and believed it should be supported for the contribution the businesses make to the wellbeing of residents, along with making Barnes an appealing place to live, work and socialise.

He added: "This initiative gives residents a greater awareness of the role they play in the local economy and creates a sense that the Barnes community can control its own economic destiny."

Resident Sarah Arthur said: "I know if I make a conscious effort to meet up with friends locally in a cafe, pub or restaurant and make sure I buy my food or clothes locally, I’m easily meeting the £36 target."