This week has been truly transformational for Andover and certainly my proudest as leader of Test Valley. Securing a whopping £18.3m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to deliver the next phase of town centre regeneration was certainly no easy task, but I’m ecstatic for Andover that we were able to get it over the line. The money means we will be able to build a multi-purpose theatre and cultural hub in the heart of the town centre - accelerating the redevelopment. Boosting footfall and providing a real shot in the arm for our town centre both during the day and into the evening. 

I thought I’d use this column to share with readers what we did behind the scenes to secure the money. When the Levelling Up Fund was first announced, I was frustrated that central government had used a fairly blunt tool to rank local authority areas, which had a large impact on whether or not they’d be successful with any bid. The problem we had was that we are situated in the south of England within a fairly affluent borough. However, that didn’t tell the whole story. Andover is a London overspill town with deprivation hidden in the borough-wide averages. We were, therefore, able to make the case to government that we deserved a shot at the money - and I remember having a frank but positive conversation with the then Secretary of State Robert Jenrick, who ultimately encouraged us to bid. 

We’ve had knockbacks along the way and many ministers to convince but we never gave up. Our Member of Parliament, Kit Malthouse, led the charge in Westminster and without whom we wouldn’t have got the money. 

Ultimately though, the reason we’ve got this sheer size of grant is because of our careful and robust approach to regeneration. Assembling the land holding, recruiting top quality master planners, consulting with the public, doing the technical work, delivering the early phases and getting ourselves in a position where we could convince government we can deliver. 

Thank you to everyone who has helped along the way including dedicated council officers, consultants, fellow councillors, Andover Vision stakeholders and local residents who helped develop the masterplan. It just goes to show what can be achieved when a town comes together.