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

In this edition, Test Valley Borough Council leader, councillor Phil North returns his attention to the town centre and its future.

Thank you to the 1,100 plus residents who contributed to the latest phase of consultation on the Andover Town Centre Masterplan.

Over 600 people popped into our community shop on Bridge Street and 500 or so contributed their thoughts on the emerging design principles online.

Combine that with the 3,000 people that had their say on the initial consultation plus the hundreds of community representatives that came along to events I hosted in the Lights Theatre, the Guildhall and St Mary’s Church, as well as a specific event for retailers and conversations with our young people, then I can say with confidence that our masterplanners have got a really clear idea about the ambitions of the people of Andover.

Such as bringing the theatre further into the town, redeveloping the Chantry Centre and creating multi-functional spaces to boost footfall. The appetite from local people and businesses to help Test Valley rejuvenate the town centre has been fantastic and I thank you for your invaluable contributions.

Hemingway Design and New Masterplanning will now consider all the responses before finalising the masterplan in the spring. Soon afterwards, Test Valley will formally adopt it and then start the process of delivering it with a private sector partner.

But we’re not hanging around. The first phase of the brand-new riverside park at Town Mill got underway last week - with works to create a new entrance into Town Mill car park via Western Avenue. Delivered in partnership with Hampshire County Council the scheme will fulfil the Andover Vision’s number one priority to make the best use of the river as it flows through the town, by stopping up the road adjacent to Wilko’s and greening the whole area. The project, due to be completed later this summer, is in full alignment with the emerging masterplan.

Finally, I was delighted to attend the Andover Bid Indies meeting last week to hear about what Independent Businesses are doing to help market themselves and the town. There are some exciting promotions in the pipeline but that meeting brought home a statistic recently reported by Panorama, that high streets up and down the country have lost 25 per cent of their retail units over the last decade.

The changing nature of town centres and the divestment of many national chains from high streets means that we are moving away from the kind of identikit town centres of the 1990s and 2000s.

The future is local. And Andover is embracing it.