31 MAR 2018

New Public Artwork for Augusta Park - Have Your Say

Test Valley is inviting Augusta Park residents to view and comment on designs for two new pieces of public art.

The Augusta Open Space initiative has hosted workshops, exhibitions, treasure hunts and walks where residents have contributed their ideas for the art and helped to shape the artists' brief. Plans are now progressing well and the designs will be on display at the Augusta Park Community Centre until 9 April.

The themes that stemmed from this work include the nature surrounding the site and the idea of growth and organic forms, the use of the land for farming and agriculture, and the desire to have a landmark piece of art and meeting place."

The Council has awarded the contract to Denis O'Connor and Bernie Rutter from Sculpture Works, who submitted a comprehensive proposal that showed their experience across the UK of creating large sculptural artworks combined with engaging communities in the creation of the work.

The sculptures are being funded from contributions paid by the developer, Taylor Wimpey, designated specifically for public artwork.

Please contact Faye Perkins by emailing fperkins@testvalley.gov.uk if you would like to share your comments about the designs.

For more information, see here.

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29 MAR 2018

Job Centre Plus Opens at Beech Hurst

I was delighted to invite the new DWP Minister and local MP, Kit Malthouse to the Test Valley Borough Council offices last week as we officially welcomed Andover Job Centre Plus to their new home at Beech Hurst.

The Council has a good track record of bringing forward projects to make the best use of our buildings. We already host several of Hampshire County Council's services, NHS Children's Therapy and now with Jobcentre Plus, Beech Hurst really has become a one-stop shop for public services – with the added advantage of providing great value for money for taxpayers.

For more information see here.

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02 MAR 2018

Town Mill Riverside Park

I invited the Leader of Hampshire County Council, Roy Perry to the Town Mills area of Andover recently to discuss the latest developments in our joint ambition to create a fantastic riverside park on the banks of the River Anton.

Last summer, I outlined my plan to stop up the road adjacent to Wilkinson and create a separate access to Town Mill car park, via Western Avenue, which would allow us to green the whole area. Members of the public backed that plan through the consultation and we have today released an artists impression of what the potential scheme could look like.

Making the River Anton a focal point in the town has been identified as the number one priority through the recent development of the Andover Vision – a twenty-year place shaping strategy developed by a partnership of local organisations and thousands of residents, launched in April 2017.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said: "Hampshire County Council is happy to support the Andover Vision, set out by Councillor North. As a former Leader of Test Valley myself, I have been interested and impressed to see all the good work being done in Andover, by Councillor North and his team.

"We acknowledge it is important to identify how traffic can be removed from the river frontage in the Town Mills area, and the first step in this process will be to do some technical feasibility work into options like a new access to the car park.

"Once we have developed some initial ideas, it will be essential to hear the views of local residents and businesses on the options. Hampshire County Council has a dedicated fund to help the market towns of Hampshire, and Andover would be a very worthy recipient of support."

 I want to use Town Mill as a springboard for further enhancements in Andover Town Centre, including the development of a Cultural Quarter on the site of the previous Andover Magistrates Court, where 14 developers have already shown an interest in enhancing the area, as well as the plans the council has for a redevelopment of the Chantry Centre.

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20 FEB 2018

Update on M&S

Update on M&S - and it is NOT good news I'm afraid:

North West Hampshire MP, Kit Malthouse and TVBC Leader, Councillor Phil North met with Marks & Spencer Retail Director, Sacha Berendji, in Parliament today to continue to press the case for Marks & Spencer to retain a presence in Andover High Street.

They once again highlighted the massive goodwill for M&S amongst shoppers from Andover and the surrounding villages. They pointed to the ever growing number of signatures on the petition organised by Councillors Iris Andersen and John Cockaday, and crucially to the profitability of the store's food section.

In particular, they urged M&S to think creatively about the future of the current store with its thriving food offer, prime location and "personal entrance" from the Black Swan Yard car-park. M&S, however, ruled out ideas such as subdividing the existing store to accommodate a Simply Food outlet. They considered that the amount of investment necessary in plant and equipment would make it uneconomic.

M&S reiterated their desire to retain a 'food presence' in Andover and believed that they would be able to sublet their existing store to a High Street multiple if the closure did proceed. In that event, despite his profound disappointment, Councillor North pledged TVBC's help to facilitate occupation by an attractive new tenant - and he made clear to M&S that it would be unacceptable to leave that unit empty for a prolonged period of time.

Kit Malthouse said: "I was immensely frustrated by M&S's position in the light of the ambitious plans for Andover Town Centre such as the Town Mills Urban Park, the Cultural Quarter and the redevelopment of the Chantry Centre. This frustration was only exacerbated by M&S staff relaying to me that they had been told that Andover was the best performing store in the region. We were at least given commitments that, if the store does close, then the future of the staff will be a priority consideration."

Councillor North said: "It was particularly galling to hear past under-investment being given as a reason for M&S's problems in Andover. Their proposals to close stores ranging from Andover to Covent Garden demonstrate how they are struggling with the changing nature of the High Street. Their commitment to shifting much of their business online nationally should not in my view preclude them from retaining a food offer in Andover High Street. However, we must now look to the future and do the very best that we can for Andover."

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16 FEB 2018

Statement on Andover Chantry Centre

I have today released a statement confirming that the Council has been in discussions with a number of parties over the pasteight months about a possible redevelopment of the Chantry Centre:

"Improving and enhancing Andover Town Centre is one of Test Valley's top priorities. Since I became Leader, we've brought forward two major projects – in the new Town Mill Riverside Park and the Cultural Quarter centred around the former Magistrates Court - to make Andover Town Centre a more attractive place to visit and enjoy in the future.

However, there can be no doubt that the internet and changing shopping habits have and will continue to change the nature of High Streets up and down the country. Andover is not immune from this change and the recent dialogue with Marks and Spencer has reinforced my convictions about the need for Andover to sustain a modern and vibrant town centre. Perhaps one where there will inevitably be a greater focus on the town centre as a social and leisure destination, as well as shopping.

I have previously made clear my ambitions for a fundamental change of our shopping space. The recent controversy about M&S's proposal to leave the High Street has spurred me to go public on the Council's work to realise these ambitions, especially in relation to redeveloping the Chantry Centre.

We have held discussions with a number of different parties over the past eight months as to how this might be achieved. Such discussions necessarily have to be "commercial in confidence" at the outset, but we will share more information with the public as soon as we can.

There is much work still to be done, but I am committed to seeking a step change for the town as a whole."

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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

Email: phil.north@testvalley.org.uk

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