OUR monthly column by the leader of Test Valley Borough Council, councillor Phil North, returns this week.

In this edition, Cllr North sheds some light on the savings that Chantry Centre tenants are set to see and shares some end of year well wishes.

Regular readers of this column will recall I left a cliff hanger at the end of my November article, where I trailed that a big announcement was imminent in relation to our ongoing plans to rejuvenate the town centre.

I’m delighted to confirm tenants of the Chantry Centre are set to see the total service charge fall by more than £150,000 for 2020, which is excellent news for both them and their customers.

Ask people about improving the High Street - and many will respond by saying just cut the rates and you’ll attract more business.

Unfortunately, we have no control over business rates, which are set centrally, but as the new landlords of the Chantry Centre we can change the service charges by bringing the marketing function in-house and forensically analysing other areas of spend we have managed to bring these down, meaning the average tenant will now pay 18 per cent less.

For any tenant that might have seen their allocation of the service charge budget go up - the council has decided not to pass on that increase.

Our new car parking machines have now also been installed. Meaning you can now use your card - including contactless - making it so much easier to pay when you don’t have that spare pound in your pocket.

For those of you that prefer cash you can use that too - and Ringo if that’s your bag.

How people come into town is a key element of our plans to rejuvenate the town centre - and parking is an important part of that. We will be making an announcement in the New Year on our parking strategy, so watch this space.

Please also have your say on the emerging design principles in the Andover Masterplan. Our community shop at 4 Bridge Street will be open every day between Wednesday, December 11, and Sunday, December 15. So, please drop in.

You can also have your say online at: www.thinkandovertowncentre.co.uk

As this is my last column of the year and, indeed, the decade, I’d like to wish all readers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

I hope you have a great time with family and friends.