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."
Test Valley Borough Council is warning residents to be on their guard against a scam offering fake council tax refunds in anattempt to access bank account details.
Scammers pretending to work for the council are phoning residents and claiming they are from the council tax department. They inform residents they have overpaid their council tax. The caller then requests bank details with the promise of a refund for the alleged overpayment. Ifsuccessful, the resident is then given another number to call which informs them that they need to pay an administration fee to get the refund.
You should never give your bank details to anyone who calls out of the blue claiming to be a member of Test Valley Borough Council staff.
The council would never ring a resident to ask for their bank details to issue a refund. If an overpayment had been made, and a refund is due, the money would be refunded directly if it had been paid by direct debit, or a cheque would be sent to the bill payer's address.
I'm pleased to report that Test Valley Borough Council were yesterday successful in prosecuting two fly tippers who dumped theirrubbish within the borough.
Mark Francis Day was ordered by the court to pay £1,332 in fines and costs for rubbish that he dumped in Longparish. He had been employed following a social media conversation where he agreed to take household rubbish away for someone but dumped it in the countryside instead.
Ian Jolley was ordered to pay £1,628 in fines and costs for flytipping waste in Charlton from his gardening business.
Both now have criminal records.
Kit Malthouse MP and I had a long and, at times, heated meeting with representatives of Marks and Spencer at the House of Commons today. We warned that it would be a grave mistake for the company to leave the town and made the case for Andover in the strongest possible terms, as a town where jobs, population and investment are all increasing substantially.
We expressed our concerns that M&S had not taken sufficient account of both present and predicted growth - and further emphasised the value that Andoverians placed on M&S's presence in the High Street demonstrated by Councillors Iris Andersen and John Cockaday's petition, which has already gathered nearly 3700 signatures.
Marks & Spencer presented the proposed closure as part of its strategy to move away from 'bricks and mortar' for "clothing
and home sales". They stated that the Andover store was underperforming on these ranges, but agreed its food section was doing well. They conceded there was some force in townspeople's arguments that the store had suffered from under-investment from M&S in the past and that the clothing lines, in particular, were not as attractive as in some other stores.
They confirmed that M&S are keen to have a Simply Food presence in Andover, but were adamant that their existing premises were not fit for that purpose. It was agreed that they would work with TVBC in their search for the right site.
Suffice to say, I was not convinced by their arguments. They could be used to justify closing almost any High Street store. Their food sales are clearly thriving in Andover, so it is no surprise that they want to open a Simply Food with a Click and Collect facility for clothing. That is the very least that we must achieve from this – and I and the council will do everything we can to ensure a continued M&S presence in Andover. The current and future investments in Andover Town Centre through the Town Mills Riverside Project, the Cultural Quarter and the Leisure Centre, as well as our aims for the redevelopment of the Chantry Centre, demonstrate a real ambition for the future of the whole town, and especially the town centre.
Kit Malthouse MP said: "I am incredibly disappointed M&S have only now entered into a dialogue with us. I am delighted their food sales are doing so well and not surprised that their clothing sales are down, as they simply don't stock the optimal lines. I propose to write again to M&S Chairman, Archie Norman, urging him to re-consider and, come what may, to take swift action about their food offer in Andover."
Kit and I are arranging a meeting with the Director of Retail at M&S, Sacha Berendji, later this month to continue to press the case.
Today marks the 100th anniversary since Parliament gave (some) women the right to vote - and a century later there is still more to do to ensure women are equally represented.
13 of the current 48 Test Valley Borough Council Councillors are women - and I want to see many more in public life.
At the Test Valley 'Be a Councillor' event last night, I was encouraging people to stand to represent their community - and I hope to see more women candidates standing for election in Test Valley in 2019 then ever before.
For more information about standing to become a Councillor see here - https://beacouncillor.co.uk/
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