OUR ‘Just to Phil You in’ column returns this week.

In this edition, Test Valley Borough Council leader Phil North looks at changes in the authority and a mission to improve the lives of residents.

After an enforced break in the run-up to the election, it is great to be back writing a monthly column again as the re-elected leader of Test Valley Borough Council. Despite it being an incredibly tough night for my party nationally, I was delighted that local residents gave the Conservatives a fresh mandate in Test Valley, as we won a majority of seats and twice as many as the second largest party.

Unfortunately, we lost some great councillors who have served Test Valley for many years and my thanks go to them all for their hard work, service and dedication. The other side of that coin is that we gained some incredibly talented people, right across the political spectrum.

It takes an enormous amount of bravery to stick your head above the parapet and stand for election and I welcome them all to the council.

As I said in my annual leaders speech at full council last month, I’m on a mission. A mission to improve the quality of life for the people that live in Test Valley.

This is at the front and centre of our new corporate plan – with our number one priority to rejuvenate our town centres. We all know town centres are changing.

Changes in shopping habits and the continued sophistication of the internet has led to a nationwide crisis of the high street.

Town centres are becoming more of a place for leisure and living as well as retail, and we need to ensure we embrace that change so they remain a destination of choice.

In Andover, as well as our big plans to redevelop the Chantry Centre, create a Cultural Quarter and deliver a new park at Town Mills — we are also drawing up a masterplan to bring those projects together and consult with the public and partners about what other opportunities there are to improve the town.

We are currently in the process of selecting external planning experts to help us with that master-planning work — and as soon as they’re appointed later this month then further details will follow about the suite of public consultation events that will take place over the summer. Watch this space and please have your say.