An Andover Town councillor has accused Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) of attempting to “thwart” a new design statement after announcing plans to redraw the conservation area.

Last week, Andover Town Council put its design statement for the conservation area, which covers much of the town centre, out for consultation. The borough council subsequently announced its own consultation, which proposes removing certain areas, including George Yard Car Park, the Sainsbury’s branch on Bridge Street, and adding others, such as the Commonwealth War Graves in Andover Cemetery.

Good Design Champion for the Andover Independents Party, Councillor Christopher Ecclestone, said that the plans “risk a return to the anything goes attitude that gave us the Chantry Centre.”

However, TVBC Planning portfolio holder, Cllr Nick Adams-King, said that with the upcoming masterplan, “it’s the right time to look at it once more” and update it.

Conservation areas are those which have “special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.” They effect planning decisions, with restrictions on what can be constructed, and can also lead to grants for their maintenance.

Andover’s conservation area was established in 1969, and subsequently extended in 1984. It extends from Andover Cemetery in the north to Eastern Avenue roundabout in the south. Views such as those around the Guildhall are protected by the area.

Andover Town Council launched a public consultation on a design statement for the conservation area on Friday, January 15, with proposals for street furniture and road paving designed to augment the appearance of the town centre.

TVBC launched a consultation for councillors and stakeholders on proposed changes to the area shortly afterwards, with a similar change in Romsey having recently been approved by TVBC’s cabinet.

However, the proposed changes in Andover had lead to accusations from a town councillor that their plans would lead to “unsympathetic” and ‘excessively high’ buildings.

Cllr Ecclestone told the Advertiser: “The attempt by TVBC to redraw the boundaries of the Conservation Area is one last roll of the dice to try and thwart the implementation of good design principles in the Town ahead of the publication of the draft Design Statement.

“We risk a return to the anything goes attitude that gave us the Chantry Centre in the early 1970s.

“It is telling that the Design Consultants asked us if Andover had been bombed in the war.”

However, TVBC hit back, saying that following the approval of the masterplan for Andover, it was time to reassess the conservation area.

Cllr Adams-King, said: “Andover’s Conservation Area has not been reviewed for many years, so with our exciting plans for the town it’s the right time to look at it once more. The aim is to enable a better understanding of the architectural and historic significance of Andover, to ensure it is managed appropriately to preserve and enhance its special interest. We’re encouraging input from as many people and local organisations as possible.

"We’re looking at the Conservation Area boundary first and once that consultation is completed we’ll consult on both the new boundary what’s of particular importance within the area and how future change can best be managed.

“The council set out to review the conservation areas in both Romsey and Andover more than a year ago. The review of the Romsey conservation area has recently been successfully completed by the same consultants, Purcell, who are very experienced in this work.

“We welcome everyone’s thoughts, concerns, suggestions and opinions during the consultation, including residents, local business owners, town councillors, ward members and other interested parties. The greater the level of input we can get, the better a document we will be able to produce for Andover.”

A public consultation on the plans is to be launched later this year.