THIS photograph by Charles Wardell records the moment that the town development of Andover became official.

Seated are the mayor, Percy Batchelor, who signed, and Sir Alan Lubbock, chairman of Hampshire County Council.

Recently-appointed town clerk John Whatley, whose job it would be to steer the borough council through the mire of legal processes, stands behind.

The town development of Andover has frequently been mentioned in this column rather disparagingly.

Not surprisingly perhaps, developers wishing to build afresh and local historians who want to preserve the old, are never going to get on too well.

READ MORE: Corner of Andover High Street from 1905

Town development saw the demise of buildings that had graced the town for many years - if not centuries - and the speed with which it was carried out did not allow sufficient time for study and investigation of what was under threat.

It is hoped that today’s 400-year-old gems of early architecture would no longer suffer the same fate.

So how and why did town development happen? The origins lay at the end of World War II when much of London was in ruins as a result of the bombing and there was a need to house a huge and growing number of displaced people, as well as create industry and infrastructure on a massive scale.

The first idea was to build entirely new towns but in 1952 the government passed the Town Development Act which allowed existing ones to expand.

Those on mainline railway routes were favoured as there was a direct communication to London already laid on.

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In consequence, it was soon mooted that Andover was an ideal candidate.

However, the old borough council rejected the idea; the electors of Andover were largely conservative, both in outlook and political persuasion (though there were several Labour councillors) and would surely not want such momentous change and upheaval brought to their historic little market town.

For the moment, that seemed to be that but then along came sodium fluoride.

Recent science during the early 1950s had indicated that sodium fluoride was good for children’s teeth.

It helped to prevent tooth decay, which had lately become a widespread problem (perhaps the end of rationing, including sweets, had something to do with it).

In order to remedy matters, a government-led idea was to conduct an experiment whereby fluoride would be added to the water supply in some areas but not in others of similar size and demographic, and the results compared.

Andover Borough Council accepted the offer wholeheartedly and, with the minimum of publicity beforehand, prepared to put the ‘experiment’ into practice.

Suddenly the story broke and many people wrote of the dangers that fluoride would bring.

There were links to cancer; the body could not get rid of it; it was a toxic poison.

Most effective of all, it was the imposition of mass medication without public consent.

Nevertheless, fluoride entered the local supply on 17 July 1956 in the ratio of one part per million. Soon, there were people who claimed to be suffering its effects.

Most prominent was High Street shop-keeper Olive Harvey who called a public meeting to protest.

The Guildhall was packed that night and what was intended to be a debate became a ‘slanging match’.

It was to be a long story but the council did not back down and so over the course of three annual local elections various anti-fluoride candidates, including Mrs Harvey, stood as Independents opposed to the policy.

The last of these, in May 1958, overturned the council decisively and fluoride was stopped.

Many of the councillors who had represented their various wards for years were rejected and never returned.

Having achieved her aim, Mrs Harvey retired but during the following six years, Andover’s mayors were all key members of the anti-fluoride campaign.

What has all this to do with town development, you may be thinking?

Well, some of these councillors were newcomers to the town, with a different mindset and arguably more forward-thinking.

Though opposed to the fluoride experiment, they had new ideas as to what was good for Andover, and town development seemed an excellent way of regenerating the old borough.

Prominent among these was Percy Batchelor, London-born and keen to embrace the expansion of the town.

In May 1961, as mayor, he signed the document that launched the Town Development Scheme, an agreement between Andover Borough Council, Hampshire County Council and London County Council to change Andover fundamentally.

There were to be new roads, new shops, new houses, new schools and new industries, with the population intended to increase from 1961’s 17,500 to 48,000 over 20 years.

In the end, this was curtailed but it was to be a long tortuous road with huge problems to be tackled along the way. Now, sixty years later, town development itself is part of Andover’s local history.