A COMPETITION celebrating the best of business and industry in the Malvern Hills area is being launched next week.

Entries for the sixth Platinum Awards for Business Excellence open on Monday (January 31).

Run by Malvern Hills District Council in association with the Malvern Gazette, the awards aim to recognise, celebrate and promote local businesses.

Council leader Tom Wells said: "We've had a fantastic response in previous years. These have always been marvellous evenings celebrating the very best of local business enterprise.

"There's a lot of creativity and innovation within our local community and we want to celebrate and nurture it."

The awards are open to any firm paying business rates to Malvern Hills District Council, including past entrants and winners.

There are seven categories: Production Excellence; Retail Excellence; Tourism Excellence; Arts Excellence; Enterprise Excellence (Entrants for this category must have been trading since September 2002); Service Business Excellence; Innovation Excellence.

The winner of each category will receive £500 and a plaque, with highly commended entries winning a plaque. The overall winner will walk away with £1,000.

Applications close on March 4, when the judges will draw up a shortlist of contenders. The awards ceremony takes place at the Malvern Theatres on Tuesday, April 12.

Businesses wishing to take part should visit the Platinum Awards link on the district council's website at www. malvern hills.gov.uk, to get more details and download an application form.

Anyone who would like to be sent a copy of the form or who has any queries, should contact Simon Rusling, at the council, on 01684 862411.

Higher Capacity, Three Counties Agricultural Society, Malvern Hills Science Park, University College Worcester, Clarke Roxburgh, Kendall Wadley and QinetiQ are sponsoring individual awards.