HAMPSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner was grilled by a local businessman on policing in Andover.

Simon Hayes was in the town last Friday at the invitation of town centre campaigner Tony Hooke, of Broadway Garage.

After finding that Hart, which is less than 30 miles from Andover, ranked as the best place to live in the Halifax Quality of Life survey – while Test Valley was 64th out of 405 local authorities – Mr Hooke is meeting representatives in various sectors on a mission to bring Andover up to the top 50.

He said: “Policing is my first and we are taking on the other areas in the next few weeks.”

Those present were the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Police and Crime Commissioner, Inspector Paul Pressley of Andover police, and Police and Crime Commissioner communications manager Alan Smith.

Mr Hooke asked Mr Hayes to act on four main issues of policing in the town.

These were how to increase the morale of police officers, reopening Andover’s custody suite, moving the police station and tackling prolific burglars.

Mr Hooke said: “Burglary is almost like cancer – there’s always somebody that you know who has been affected by it.

“The town has now got three pawn shops in the centre and another gold shop. It has become very easy for the burglars to change the goods for cash.”

However, Insp Pressley said that burglary is down quite significantly in the town.

He said: “There are a variety of factors involved in that. Certainly the move from houses having windows that were very easy to get into to having UPVC. I would like to think that policing activity has had a big impact.”

An idea of moving Andover police station – which is now open for fewer hours – to Beech Hurst, in Weyhill Road, was mooted by Mr Hooke.

He argued that bringing the police and Test Valley Borough Council under one roof would make it easier for the services to communicate with each other and more parking facilities would mean it was easier for crimes to be reported.

More space would mean Andover’s closed custody suite could reopen at flexible times, said Mr Hooke, who also asked for Andover Magistrates’ Court to open its doors again.

Mr Hayes said: “What we want to deliver from a policing point of view is a local policing service which is provided by a police presence in the community.

“My personal view is that with that comes a local magisterial system.”

He said that a review into local policing would look again into police infrastructure.

Mr Hayes outlined how he had agreed to increase the starting police officer pay from the £19,000 set by central Government and wanted to keep the same numbers of PCSOs in the two counties, to keep up police morale.