The Vice-Chairman of Penton Mewsey Parish Council, Col Harry Vialou-Clark, chaired a meeting in Penton Village Hall to discuss the planning application for Andover Airfield.
Present on the panel were local Cllr Phil Lashbrook, Peter Derbyshire from RoADAC (Residents of Andover and District Awareness Committee) and local MP Sir George Young.
Harry Vialou-Clark read out a letter from Lord Howell, a resident of Penton Mewsey and former Transport Secretary, explaining his objections to the application on environmental grounds. Cllr Lashbrook explained the considerations which Test Valley Borough Council had to take into account in determining the application by October 10th. He also outlined the additional pressures on Andover's road system, due to the growing numbers of houses due to be built; the move of Army personnel from Upton and Wilton to Monxton Road; the shift of Army training from Germany to Salisbury Plain; plus any traffic generated by the redevelopment of the airfield site.
Peter Derbyshire explained the action being taken by ROADAC and the leaflet it was distributing and said the attitude of Hampshire County Council to the traffic implications would be crucial.
Residents from Abbotts Ann, Monxton and Amport were also at the meeting and voiced concern at what was proposed. A separate meeting is being organised by Monxton Parish Council to which the developers have been invited. Penton Grafton Parish Council
are holding a meeting at Weyhill Village Hall at 7pm next Wednesday - August 1st.
A summary of Sir George's remarks appears below.
"As we have seen from the debate about this application, it is possible to come up with two different answers.Express your opinion - use my online voting system - click here.
"Some within the borough council and some of those who have written to the local paper believe the application should be granted. They take one view, which I would call a narrow view. They take the view that the land is zoned for development for uses that include warehousing; that there is an existing application for part of the site that cannot be revoked; that we should not turn away a £120 million investment, creating 2000 new jobs, to match the 3500 new homes planned in the town; that we should accept the offer to increase the capacity of the roundabout ahead of the development of the airfield, and in a better way than the existing proposals.
"I take a different view, and believe we should step back and take a broader more strategic view.
"As the local MP, I am ambitious for Andover. Ambitious for the people who live here, for the schools, for the new college, and for the shops and services that the town can sustain. Currently, earnings from employment in Andover are below the average for Hampshire – below average for Test valley. This is because of its economic base, which is overconcentrated in a number of industries that do not pay well and which do not all have the prospects of what I would call the growth industries.
"This is not to devalue Andover’s manufacturing base, nor the many well-run businesses that do well in a competitive market. I am proud of the Britaxes, Twinings, the HSA and many others. It is a factual comment about the structure of the town’s historic industrial base.
"I was a member of the Andover Vision Board which said this about employment in the town under the heading It's our time for 21st Century Enterprise:
"....we want to bring new skills into the town, new skills to support business growth and create the high quality employment opportunities we need.""That vision was endorsed by TVBC.
"We have two major estates in the town: Portway and Walworth. They are called, for good reasons, Industrial Estates; and one of them, Walworth, is looking tired.
"Andover Airfield was designated by the council as a Business Park. It is the last major brownfield site in or around the town and a golden opportunity to rebalance the town’s economic base.
"It was designated as a Business Park for good reasons. Business Park denotes jobs for the town which would offer a broader and better-paid range than we have at the moment. Jobs in Pharmaceuticals, information technology, R&D, in Head Offices, in media, marketing and creative industries – television and radio - financial services. A business park does not mean a huge warehouse.
"We have some of the skills in the town for those jobs, but those people migrate outwards to work.
"A rebalanced economy would in turn send a signal to the colleges and schools to raise further the aspirations of those who want to work locally.
"That vision of Andover will be fatally compromised if such a large percentage of the airfield goes to a warehouse – and inevitably it will set the tone for the rest of the site, squeezing out the jobs I want. You can continue to call it a Business Park – but with a Tesco warehouse occupying 75% of it and dominating its traffic- you won’t be believed.
"I have seen no evidence of anyone trying to promote the Airfield as a Business Park. They have sat back and accepted the first offer with a sigh of relief.
"Andover deserves better than this fatalistic and unambitious approach.
"I also want to dispel the NIMBY label; the airfield is zoned for development, there is an outstanding consent for development which cannot be revoked, development will generate traffic and affect the sightline. What we are talking about is the type of jobs.
"On top of what I call the strategic objections, there are the local objections – relevant to the planning application, better developed by others here – I pay tribute to the work of Ian Marshall and Peter Derbysshire and the Parish Councils.
"And Tesco don’t really want to be here. They want to be further east, nearer the centre of gravity of the region.
"I am not anti-Tesco – I happen to think the Tesco in Charlton is better than the 7-11 that was there before. Tesco operate in a competitive market – ASDA, Sainsbury, Waitrose will all be in the town – and their profits pay the pensions of many people I represent – and future pensions.
"Finally, what I want before this application is considered is a serious debate about the last opportunity to rebalance the economy, raise peoples aspirations and drive forward prosperity in Andover."
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The RoADAC website is linked below.