Our town to change

Dear Editor,

Having been an Andover resident for the majority of my life, I have seen a few changes - every generation does. Many people slate where they live but I happen to like Andover. Having parents who live here also gives me a longer memory of the place than my own lifetime.

I’ve looked at many photos of the town and been enchanted by some of the buildings that no longer exist. I’m sure that some had to be demolished because they were beyond saving. Maybe some were demolished by their private owners? I have no idea when planning laws developed that might have saved some of Andover that has been lost. One entity I do blame for the wholesale demolition of our town centre and eradication of a lot of buildings of character is our council.

Those who represented the people of Andover in the 1950s through to the 1970s practically destroyed Andover’s heart. Very little conservation was in their minds. Many of the buildings that gave Andover its character were destroyed, sometimes whole streets. But the vandalism didn’t end there. Our Borough Council forced the Andover community and culture to change dramatically with the influx of people from London.

Please don’t misunderstand my argument here. I have nothing against the people from London. Simply put, they came from a big city and that culture is different from a small market town in the Shires. No group of people is better or worse than the other.

The town’s population practically doubled in size. The council housing estates built were something the likes of Andover had never seen. They were not set out in roads as was the rest of town, but in squares with communal parking. Totally out of character.

Many would say the influx of people and business from London brought jobs and investment into the area, but all it really did was relocate it all, including people. Andover would have been perfectly prosperous had it not doubled in size and retained the character and culture of a rural market town.

Having spoken to a few people who worked or work at the council and understanding their thinking, many appear to be no better than empire builders. More houses, business and people equal more council tax revenue. I would say money is more important to our civil servants than anything else.

I will try to end this letter on a positive note and maybe offer some suggestions? If the Council utilises and landscapes our river for people to walk alongside it with seats to sit, I think that would be a good idea.

We need to develop what we have and the river is an asset. I also believe our town environment is scruffy in many places, by the Folly roundabout and others with trees and scrub. The town could have a more landscaped feel along our main roads and maybe become a ‘garden town’. A few well-placed Cedar of Lebanon and views being given thought? Lastly, one of the town’s heritage is water mills. The Domesday Book listed six here. Winchester has retained its City Mill and it’s run by the National trust.

Winchester has of course more visitors than Andover, but I think some utilisation of the Town Mill and restoration of its water wheel and building interior turned back to its original use could be a tourist attraction. It is once again an asset we could harness.

I personally think the people of Andover make better judgements about their town than those we elect to make our decisions. I’m in favour of direct democracy and maybe one day we will have the power to stop future vandalism and awful decisions.

Stuart Noyes, Vigo Road

Cow Common

Dear Editor,

I think many people will be very saddened by the Chilbolton Parish Council’s decision to close the Cow Common car park over the summer. Many families with small children get a great deal of pleasure from being able to visit the Common and have access to the river.

The article identifies numerous reasons for the decision to close the car park, some of which are debatable, but the very fact that it is so popular really needs some consideration.

Test Valley has many rivers but as far as I am aware Chilbolton Common is the only place where families can sit by the river and watch youngsters splash around in the water.

Is there not a message here? Instead of authorities attempting to close off such locations, for whatever reason, they should be creating more such places, since clearly there is a demand. If Chilbolton Common is far from an ideal location, is there anywhere else?

TVBC has a Masterplan for the redevelopment of Andover which includes more green spaces and an objective to attract more people to the Chantry Centre and High Street.

In my view, the Masterplan lacks any sort of specific attraction and a water ‘park’ that resembles what we have on Chilbolton Common would clearly be popular with families at the same time attracting people to the town centre.

It seems to me Andover already has the perfect site in the area where the defunct magistrates court is sited. It could be demolished, grassed over and the existing pond developed into a paddling pool fed by river water (already there) and the adjacent car park converted into a play area.

This would replicate what we have on Chilbolton Common but with the advantage of nearby car parks, toilets, cafes, and shops. It would also integrate into the Masterplan being on the River Walk and Green Spine. Perhaps you might call on TVBC for comment.

Ed Treadwell. Chilbolton

Positive times

Do we all see and feel the more positive sides during this time in our lives? We hear so much sad and bad news, of which there is no doubt a lot more to hear. I feel and hope support will be given.

Yet on the other side is there a change? Are we progressing? Moving forward? Reaching out for more good times ahead?

The times we have managed during the shutdown also bring in some positivity. Some folk tell me they have not left their homes at all. Yet, help, support and guidance is developing through such simple sources as being neighbourly.

My dictionary tells me being neighbourly is being friendly and helpful. It is actually such a simple action, does it cost anything? If not required a simple thank you can raise our spirits. And those who have received neighbourly support appear comfortable and content to go with the flow at this time in our lives.

The heat we have just experienced - personally it felt a time to look after myself, as not so easy to go out and about. Yet I did call in on a friend, fairly early, to avoid the highest temperature that day. Ten minutes of my time, sharing photographs, making a long, cold drink with a nibble of biscuits raised such a pleasant smile saying, thank you, it was nice to see you.

I see more folk out walking, running, cycling. So simple and free really. At times I have been amazed with folk stopping me to ask, how I am?

We have not met before, yet it was a huge rise in my spirits to stay with me for a whole day. At times I have a camera in my arms, which certainly draws in interest as to have I found a good sight to snap?

I was also greeted by other, let’s say professional photographers, pointing me in the direction of a vole, at Anton lakes.

Such a simple tiny rodent, yet its twitching nose and whiskers called in delight to view with or without a photograph. Mr Vole had his hidden burrow on the quiet distant streams.

Goslings and ducklings, well does anyone not feel the pleasure of seeing tiny, yellow fluffy ducks and geese? Their parents are also very protective yet allow us at times to sit with the camera. Toddlers can be seen throwing bird food with a scream of delight with their children’s little legs, running back and to with excitement which is a pleasure too.

Today the swan family, of six cygnets, posed on the edge of the walkway and lake. Mr Swan, stood tall and broad as the bouncer with his head held high watching passers-by, as Mrs Swan taught her youngsters to wash and dry their floating feathers with such tall, grey, wing flapping, above their gently drooping heads of glowing eyes and shiny dipped beaks …

A pleasure? Thank you to all for sharing your joy and excitement on my walk, during the time of the virus, for bringing in such simple, free delights.

Linda Price, Fyfield

‘Can’t go forward’

Dear Editor,

What an absolutely brilliant letter from Margaret Reichlin last week (July 23 edition). I am sure that there are many like myself who agree with every word. It is no wonder there are so many mental health problems in this country, everything you try to do is blocked by ridiculous rules, unfathomable bureaucracy and/or diction which is almost impossible to understand.

Let me provide another example to do with trust. I have been a volunteer guide at Winchester Cathedral for over 20 years. Suddenly we had to start competing DBS forms which are meaningless as, even if you are given the all clear by the police it only means you have not been caught and could easily do a criminal act as soon as you have completed it. We had to do this regularly.

A year ago, the Cathedral decided that they needed to do some safeguarding training which I objected to because I have been doing the job for so long it could make no difference to me and how I worked. However, I was told that if I did not do it, I could not continue to guide – a job that I loved and had been doing successfully for 20 years. So I gave in and did it.

This year we have been expected to do a more in-depth safeguarding training course and get a certificate – needless to say I have refused to do it. At 73 I should not have to be taking ‘exams’ in order to do a voluntary job and I have now been told that I must no longer carry out guiding.

I explained that I had had in depth safeguarding training already with the NHS, and had been trustee for a charity for the blind for many years, with contact with all the members on a regular basis. Needless to say this was ignored.

So, for 20 years I have been successfully guiding at a so called ‘Christian’ organisation and travelling to Winchester at my own expense (which I do not begrudge). No one in the Cathedral hierarchy had any discretion in my case to allow me to keep guiding. I even wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury explaining my 20 years service and that I had already had safeguarding training with the NHS but this made no difference whatsoever.

Bearing in mind that I am not a social worker and have no responsibility for and am never left in charge of others I find this appalling.

I could give other examples of this type of treatment but I think that it is the lack of trust that I find most disquieting and this is played out in very many ways on a daily basis.

The country cannot go forward like this and perhaps we need to begin a movement to stop this idiocy going any further.

Joy Preston, Anna Valley