Dear Editor,

I was very pleased to see the principles expressed by the leader of Test Valley Borough Council, Councillor Phil North in last week's Advertiser, to introduce housing, leisure, entertainment and attractive open spaces to make Andover Centre more vibrant and meet the rapidly changing needs.

When I was appointed chief executive of TVBC way back in 1983, I quickly came to the view that the then Chantry Centre needed updating so that its large open car park could be converted into a multi-storey directly attached to a newly enclosed existing shopping area, to avoid customers having to walk across a busy road, climb the steps and then shop in an open air shopping centre on a cold, wet, windy day.

The council agreed; architects were appointed and the Advertiser printed a free supplement illustrating all of the proposed changes which were largely supported by your readers.

In my view, the new plans to demolish the Chantry Centre are unnecessary and will be extremely costly and cause a great deal of disturbance when it could easily be modernised and still form an enclosed part of the overall new Town Centre plans.

It could be re-modelled by creating smaller units to meet the requirements of local shopping entrepreneurs who could be offered short term rental contracts to avoid the anxiety of their businesses being unsuccessful. Additional landscaping could be provided and the large central space converted into a food hall with some of the surrounding shops serving various menus with a common eating/drinking area in the middle.

Could the old Tesco store and surrounding area and shops be redeveloped into the new Lights Theatre? Could the library be moved into existing empty shops so that it is at ground level and its present space converted to apartments? Could the existing offices be converted into apartments? Could the Post Office be re-located into the centre by attractive negotiations and which would add to the 'footfall' and convenience of its customers? Could some of the banks elsewhere in the town be prevented from closing by jointly providing a central bank in the Chantry Centre which could be arranged to collectively serve their customers?

I believe that these kind of ideas should be discussed and thereby potentially retain a valuable covered area at much less cost and disruption than would be created by its demolition and would extend its vitality and opening hours and maximise the use of the multi-storey car park, which itself could be given an uplift.

Just to add another thought; could the old M&S store be viably converted into a covered market?

Gerry Blythe, Tangley, Andover.