A ‘first-of-its-kind’ space for Andover businesses is set to be created after Test Valley Borough Council received funds to transform derelict office space in the heart of town.

The fourth and fifth floors of Chantry House, the blocks rising above the Chantry Centre, will become an ‘IncuHive Space’ after the council was given £200,000 in grant money, with flexible working for a range of employees and companies.

Six offices will be created, as well as 30 rentable desks, recreation areas and reception facilities. There will also be photo and video studios, as well as an innovation space, for creative industries in the building.

The leader of Test Valley Borough Council, councillor Phil North, said the council was “incredibly grateful” for the funding.

He said: “If anyone has seen other examples of IncuHive spaces they’ll know that they are really exciting, inviting and are brilliant settings in which to work. This is great news for the town and is also a fantastic example of the benefits of working with partners to get the very best outcome for our communities. 

“The proposal is very much in line with our plans for the wider redevelopment of the town centre, which will see a greater mix of work and leisure uses, alongside traditional retail. Although we have longer term plans to demolish the Chantry Centre, we will do this in phases, so the investment in this particular part of the building is very much needed now and will help the High Street. If it becomes really popular, which I’m sure it will, we’ll ensure we continue to accommodate this type of facility and the people who use it in our redevelopment plans.”

Flexible working has become increasingly popular even before the pandemic, with companies such as WeWork seeing explosive growth throughout the 2010s. It has been predicted that following Covid, flexible working will continue to grow after the mix of home and office work in the pandemic proved successful.

TVBC say the site is designed to accommodate Covid restrictions, even if they may have been lifted by the time of opening. They say it will also reduce the strain on public transport and reduce carbon emissions by lessening the need for workers to commute out of Andover.

There is currently no opening date set for the new offices, which, if the Andover Masterplan goes as planned, will be in service for around a decade before the Chantry Centre is demolished. Outline plans for the project, however, suggest new office spaces in the buildings that will replace it.