Andover Town Council is to publish a design statement for the town centre this week following a series of delays and controversies over the plans.

The statement, which will outline guidance on how to retain the character of the town centre, will initially focus on Andover’s conservation area, which runs from Andover Cemetery in the north to the South Street roundabout junction.

The document will be launched online on Friday, with the public invited to provide feedback on the initial plans.

Discussions to shape planning in the town with a document date back many years, with Andover Town Council having looked to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan for the whole town in 2013, which would have been used to guide decisions on planning applications by the borough council.

Though a consultation on the area of the plan was held in 2014, and a Facebook page established in 2016, a plan itself was never approved. As such, the current town council aims to approve individual plans for separate areas of the town

Councillor David Coole noted this during a meeting of the town council’s planning committee on Monday, January 11, saying: “I’d like to remind members of the previous administration the significant difficulty they experienced in trying to progress an Andover-wide neighbourhood development plan, and the minute amount of responses they got and the fact that the neighbourhood plan had to be dropped”.

Following a subsequent election, plans for a Design Statement for the conservation area have been driven forward by the new town council. Controversy was raised around the tendering process, with an auditor alleging that regulations and standing orders had “not been correctly applied,” which was disputed by members of the council.

Following a closed session on January 5 to “unblock” the process, the planning committee meeting on January 11 saw a final update before the publication of the statement.

Following the concerns raised by the auditor, Cllr Luigi Gregori asked about the “current legal position” of the statement, and if it had been paid for.

Locum town clerk Tracy Predeth said that she had “checked with the internal auditor and we’re all ok to proceed with it,” and that the invoice for the document was awaiting authorisation from the chairman.

Cllr Coole added: “The council has approved the design statement contact, it is legally obliged to now pay it, and any attempts to obstruct the payment should now cease and we should now pay the bill and proceed.”

Cllr Robin Hughes subsequently asked if members of the public had been involved in the process of producing the design statement, or if it was a “fait accompli”.

Cllr Ecclestone said that the public had not yet been consulted on the plans, “matching the procedures that TVBC used for the masterplan.”

He said: “This is the first phase of the consultation. After the results are incorporated, then it will be offered again for a second consultation so that people who miss out on the first one, or want to see their ideas have been incorporated, can be included. Ultimately, it will be up to this committee to review the recommendations of the public and comments, and see if we put them back in.”

Selected pages from the statement will be published on public noticeboards later this week, with the full document to be available on the town council’s website.