Veterans have raised “grave concerns” over a proposal to hold a referendum on moving Andover’s war memorial.

Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) was debating a motion by Cllrs Christopher Ecclestone and David Coole to hold a consultation on the resiting of the memorial, with the aim of holding a referendum on the move in 2021.

Cllr Ecclestone said that the proposal would “would finally, once and for all, settle this issue of where the war memorial is sited.”

However, others disagreed with the plans, saying that they had been brought with “contempt” and had no information on the costs or impacts such a move would have on the listed monument.

The war memorial in Andover was originally conceived of as a memorial tablet inside the Guildhall, but was subsequently expanded into the cenotaph, which was paid for by public subscription.

It was unveiled on the High Street in 1920, with the names of 214 soldiers who gave their lives listed on its sides. It lists those who died up until 1920, to account for those who lost their lives due to causes which could be attributed to the conflict.

Following plans to expand the Guildhall, which were never realised, it was moved to St Mary’s Churchyard in 1956, where plaques with the names of those who died in the Second World War were later added.

Cllrs Ecclestone and Coole proposed a motion that said that a consultation, and subsequent referendum, should be held “in light of the lack of public consultation when the Andover War Memorial was originally moved in 1956 and the on-going groundswell of public opinion for the restoration to its position on the High Street”. Cllr Coole had previously asked a similar question at a meeting of the council in November.

Cllr Ecclestone said that the public needed to be consulted on the move from its “current, obscure position.”

He said: “I am not a partisan of either position on the subject of where the Andover War Memorial should be, but I am a partisan of the concept that the public of Andover should have an opinion on this which they were deprived of in 1956. This would finally, once and for all, settle this issue of where the war memorial is sited.

Cllr Phil North said that recent consultations with the people of Andover had not identified a desire for the memorial to be moved, saying that the motion was for a “meaningless consultation.”

Cllr Carl Borg-Neal concurred, having consulted with his father, a president of the Andover Royal British Legion. He read out a statement from him in the meeting, which raised a number of concerns, and called on councillors to draw up plans for the move before a consultation.

It said: “I have grave concerns over whether it can feasibly be moved without causing any damage, and would expect expert advice would be obtained giving assurance it could move before any consultation could start.

“Secondly, there are two elements to the remembrance garden, the World War One memorial and the World War Two memorial wall. I would not want to see these separated as I do not believe the wall could be accommodated in the high street, and would want to see some sort of final design proposition before any consultation.

“On a more personal note, if someone wishes to visit for a moment of quiet reflection I am sure they would find it more difficult to do so in the hustle and bustle of the high street”.

Cllr Nick Matthews, a former army veteran, said that the motion had been brought with “contempt” by the two councillors.

“We have just conducted a comprehensive armed forces covenant review, and during that review, we were engaged and were in correspondence with very many local fellow veterans in and around Andover.”

He said that many of those consulted had been concerned about a proposed move, and that the proponents of the consultation should “do the groundwork” first regarding the practicalities of the matter.

Cllr Dorothy Baverstock, meanwhile, raised concerns that the high street setting of the war memorial would lead to vandalism.

She said: “Within the last 12 months, we have had to put in, as [Romsey} Town Council, CCTV so we can work out who is damaging our war memorials, and I am extremely sad about that. If you put it into a very public place I think you will suffer.”

Cllr Coole, himself a veteran, summed up following the debate, accusing one councillor of “whining.”

He said that the issue had “rumbled on now for a very long time,” and that “there are ways of dealing” with the WW2 memorial if the cenotaph were to be moved. However, he did not provide any practical details.

The motion was then voted on, and was defeated heavily by members, with only Andover Independents Party members Cllrs Coole, Ecclestone and Rebecca Meyer voting in favour.