MALVERN could find itself twinned with a spa town in south-western France of an initiative started this week by the town council bears fruit.

The council has already been approached by the deputy mayor of Bagneres-de-Bigorre in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, asking to establish links between the two towns.

At Tuesday's meeting of the town council, deputy mayor Cynthia Palmer told fellow members that, like Malvern, Bagneres-de-Bigorre is a spa town with a history of using pure water as a remedy.

She said: "Bagneres-de-Bigorre is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees and is part of a French nationwide network of spa towns. The town ranks first in the Hautes-Pyrenees department as a tourist destination, with 8,500 visitors taking the waters each year. The town is also a leading centre for research on the benefits of water treatment."

She said that Bagneres-de-Bigorre is already linked with three other spa towns in Europe: Tutzing in Bavaria, Granarolo Dell'Emilia in Italy and Alhama de Granada in southern Spain.

Cllr Palmer said that the deputy mayor, Stephane Barthe, has already been in touch with the UK's ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, who said he would support any twinning efforts.

Cllr Clive Smith said that by increasing links with European spa towns, Malvern could make itself attractive as a conference venue for British and European spa organisations.

Cllr Julian Roskams said: "The similarities between the two towns are quite marked, and I'm sure there will be a lot we can learn from them, and a lot they can learn from us. We should throw our weight behind this."

Cllr Pat Mewton said: "It's a good idea, and we should support this, but we shouldn't gibe financial aid, or provide any staff time or c facilities."

Cllr Palmer said the proposed twinning would be run largely by community volunteers with little council involvement beyond an annual grant of about £500. EU money may also be available to help fund the project.

She said: "The twinning association will also enable young people to take part in social exchanges that will enrich their lives and enhance their understanding of the cultural diversity of the European Union."