"Let's open up the river and make the best use of the Anton as it flows through the town." That was the stand out priority fromthe people of Andover as we consulted on a new Andover Vision, which I have had the pleasure to lead over the last 16 months.
The River Anton's most prominent town centre position is as it meanders through the Town Mills, past the Methodist Church on its way to the Clatfords. It is at this location that a scheme is currently being worked up by Hampshire County Council, as lead partner with support from Test Valley to improve the area; widening the footway; improving the landscape and providing more benches. But looking at the proposed project again in the context of the Andover Vision I quickly came to the conclusion that the current scheme, whilst undoubtedly an improvement, was a bronze solution rather than the gold one that Andover deserved. So with support from fellow Andover Councillors, I instructed Test Valley Borough Council officers to work up an enhanced proposal which consists of blocking the road adjacent to Wilkinson and creating a separate access to Town Mills car park from Western Avenue. This would allow us to improve the current scheme and create a fantastic urban park on the banks of the Anton, greening the area. Removing the traffic from this location would not only mean providing much more recreational space, it also passes the 'Toddler Test', meaning families can enjoy spending time by the river without the fear of passing traffic, attracting people to the town and encouraging them to stay longer.
Sounds good, doesn't it? So this is where you come in. The consultation is asking for public opinion on the current proposal so in order for us to achieve the enhanced scheme, everyone who has been telling us that improving that area is their priority needs to back it, by ensuring they say so during the consultation. This can be accessed, via Hampshire County Council's website at: www.hants.gov.uk/transport/transportschemes/andovertownmill - you can also pick up a paper copy at Test Valley's offices in Beech Hurst. The consultation runs until the 31st August, so please make your views known in the 'additional comments' section.
Since becoming leader of the Council, I have been touring Test Valley getting to know, in detail, the various communities across the Borough.
Last week, my tour took on a cross party flavour - as I was shown around North Baddesley and Valley Park Wards by the new Leader of the Lib Dem Group, Celia Dowden and longstanding Councillor, Alan Dowden. I was able to see the Hoe Lane development site; the new pathway that has just been constructed at Glendowan Road and visit Knightwood Leisure Centre, where we are developing a new building for the local pre-school and intend to work together to try and improve pedestrian access.
Cllr Celia Dowden said: "I welcome the new leader's intention to visit every ward in the Borough. I was pleased to show him the diversity within the North Baddesley ward and discuss with him some of the issues."
Cllr Alan Dowden said" I think the new leader was impressed with Valley Park and I appreciated the opportunity to show him around and talk about ways we can further improve the area."
There's a myth in politics that just because someone is from a different party, then surely we must always be at each other's throats. That's not true. Actually in local politics we often agree and I look forward to working with Celia, Alan and their colleagues to continue to improve the quality of life for the residents of Test Valley.
Earlier this week, I attended the inspiring Andover Junior Graduation Ceremony in The Lights – to celebrate the achievements of our young people.
The Junior Graduation was one of the key projects that came out of the original Andover Vision to raise aspirations in the town.
The ceremony congratulates year six students as they move from primary on to secondary school and encourages them and their parents to consider higher education in future years - with an inspiring talk from the University of Winchester.
Students were congratulated by the Mayor of Test Valley Borough Council and received a graduation certificate before being welcomed into the secondary sector by Nathan Thomas from Winton Academy.
I continued my tour of Test Valley today – spending an interesting few hours with Romsey Extra Councillor and current Mayor of Romsey, Ian Hibberd.
As the new leader of Test Valley, I want to get to know each and every community in the Borough – so it was great to a get a really detailed view of Romsey Extra from Cllr Hibberd.
The afternoon included a tour around the fantastic Youth in Romsey facility, a visit to the new development at Abbotswood and finished with lunch in the Hunters Inn.
Ian Hibberd said: "I was delighted to show Councillor North around my ward and share with him the key issues we are facing here in Romsey Extra. As I always point out, we are Councillors for the whole Borough so I'm impressed with the interest Phil is showing in getting to know all of Test Valley, in detail."
Despite my relatively young age, I was today made an honorary member of the Augustians (the over 50's club on Augusta Park) - as I gave a talk on the Andover Vision.
Even though I was grilled for a good 45 minutes afterwards on various Test Valley Borough Council and other matters, I was made to feel very welcome - and they even took the time to write me a card to say thank you.
It was my pleasure to attend - a fantastic community organisation.
Click Here to Contact Phil
If you have any ideas, issues or concerns please feel free to contact me.
Address: Cllr Phil North, C/O TVBC, Beech Hurst, Weyhill Road, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 3AJ.
Call: 077324 23023