A leading business figure has been appointed as the new president of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.

Peter Taylor, Managing Partner of regional law firm Paris Smith, takes the helm from David Joel who has stepped down after three years in the voluntary role.

As the new Chamber President, Peter will represent the views of members to government and other outside organisations on critical policy issues affecting business.

His internal function is to support the Chamber board, holding fellow directors to account and providing corporate governance.

Speaking at the membership organisation’s annual general meeting, held via Zoom, Peter said: “The Chamber is the voice of business in Hampshire. Together we can make a significant difference in helping to build a thriving business environment and ensuring future generations can flourish.

“I will work as hard as I possibly can to be visible across the county understanding what the challenges and synergies are.

“David will be a hard act to follow, he has served the Chamber with an amazing sense of values, respect, honesty and integrity. He has never shied away from difficult decisions.

“David has been particularly instrumental in ensuring businesses have been able to access the support they have needed over the past 18 months. We owe him a great deal of thanks.”

As well as the new President appointment, the AGM confirmed the re-election of four Board members: Ed Gould, David Harris, Joe Jeffers and Mark Mills-Goodlet.

A new non-executive director, Liana Brien, an expert in banking and chair of the Chamber’s Andover business strategy group, was also appointed.

In his review of the past year, Chief Executive Ross McNally said: “The Chamber’s role is to support businesses and we have worked hard to stand up for our members in what has been an exceptional year. It remains a pivotal moment. Our message is that we are here for you.”

Ross pointed to a number of successful initiatives he said were both the bedrock of the Chamber’s pandemic response and its strategy for building resilience for the future.

They include online ‘Chamber of Solutions’ events which have brought nearly 2,000 attendees together for virtual learning and sharing insights.