2020 has been a year that has been full of change. Whether it’s been the two national lockdowns, the wearing of masks, or everyone becoming acquainted with the quirks of Zoom, our lives have been rather different than we might have expected. But 2020 is also the first year of a new decade, giving us the opportunity to look back at what changes have been brought to Andover during the past decade.

Construction at the Pickets

One of the biggest changes since 2010 has been the construction of vast new estates in Andover, with whole new suburbs for the town.

In particular, the transformation of the former hamlets of Picket Twenty and Picket Piece have added thousands of new homes to the town, with construction beginning at the former in 2010, and the latter in 2015.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing, with the cancellation of a planned pub and medical centre for the new estate in Picket Twenty. A store for the area is set to open in 2021, having long been promised but subject to a number of delays.

Construction work continues on both estates, with more residents likely to move into our town in the coming years.

Andover Town Council

Though it may not seem like it, ten years ago there was no such thing as the town council. Since 1974, Andover had been without its own local council after the previous borough was merged into Test Valley. The Andover Special Expenses Levy was charged to provide these services by the borough council, and for 35 years, the situation would remain the same.

However, fast forward to 2010, and the town council would come into being, with 19 members elected to it at first. The council’s main responsibilities were providing allotments and Christmas lights, with negotiations with the borough council hoping to achieve more transfers. These discussions continued over the first election in 2015, when the makeup of the council remained broadly similar, and 2019, where a landslide election win for the Andover Alliance saw them take the reigns.

Since then, the Andover Alliance has shrunk following a series of resignations and expulsions, with subsequent elections and co-options see the council split between the Alliance, the Andover Independents Party, the Liberal Democrats and independents. Negotiations to transfer powers from TVBC appear to have stalled for the time being, while the town council has hit the headlines after votes of no confidence and a period of closure while alleged grievances were investigated.

With 2021 coming into view, and a campaign to abolish it having been created, it remains to be seen what the town council will be up to, if it still exists, after the next decade.

Andover BID

Another source of political contention in Andover was the setting up of the town’s Business Improvement District, which takes a levy from businesses in town to pay for a variety of services.

The BID was narrowly established following a vote in November 2018, which passed with 70 votes in favour and 67 against, coming into effect in 2019.

The decision was called “wrong” by former councillor Kevin Farrer, who dramatically resigned from Test Valley Borough Council after being summoned to Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court.

He, along with 25 other businesses, were taken to court by Test Valley Borough Council after failing to pay the levy, and handed liability orders for the money owed.

The BID has established a number of schemes in the meantime, including a radio scheme which “delighted” businesses, as well as BID Rangers to provide a “safe, convenient and enjoyable” place to visit, though they received a mixed reaction.

Another vote on the BID will be held in 2024 to decide whether to continue it for another five years.

Changes in the High Street

As well as the BID, the High Street itself has seen a number of changes in the last few years as shops from large, established chains have increasingly left, with new independent shops moving in.

One major loss to Andover came in 2018, when Marks and Spencers announced it would be closing its store in the town. Since then, a number of other big chains have announced closures, be it Sainsbury’s Bridge Street branch or The Body Shop, while Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Peacocks have announced closing down sales after their owner went into administration.

However, local independent businesses have taken advantage, with comic shops, new supermarkets, vintage stores and art galleries among the variety of businesses opening the doors in the town. New stores and pop-ups have also opened up in the Chantry Centre, bought by the borough council in March 2019, with plans for much more dramatic redevelopment to come.

Andover Masterplan

This planned development proposes sweeping changes to the town centre, including the demolition of the Chantry Centre, a new home for The Lights theatre and a redeveloped campus for Andover College.

Unveiled in September this year, the plans, which cost just shy of £84,000, saw a mixed reaction from residents, but were passed unanimously by Test Valley Borough Council.

Since then, the plans have got underway with work taking place to create the Town Mills Riverside Park already taking place. In future, this is hoped to form a section of a larger River Quarter in town, including improved access to the River Anton.

Only time will tell if these plans will be completed in their entirety, with the project expected to take at least a decade to be completed.