The hall at John Hanson School was packed for the Public Meeting organised by the STOP campaign, which is opposed to the plans for a Megashed on Andover Airfield. 7 borough councillors and one County Councillor were present, with representatives from Salisbury and Farnborough there as well. Sandra Gidley, MP for the neighbouring Romsey constituency, was also present.
The meeting was chaired by the Rev Derek Overfield, and addressed by Lord Howell, a former Secretary of State for Transport and a local resident; by Katrina Saville, Chairman of Monxton Parish Council; by Julie Tremlin speaking on behalf of Andover Youth Forum; by Peter Jopling, Vice Chairman of Upper Clatford Parish Council, and by Mike Cleugh, Marc Catchpole and John Kelly from the STOP campaign. The meeting was opened and closed by Rhonda Smith, who leads the campaign.
Sir George also spoke and the text of what he said is below.
Opening the meeting, Rhonda Smith said that it was likely that the meeting on Feb 25th when TVBC were scheduled to determine the application would be postponed. This was because it was unlikely that the County Council would be able to submit its views by that date as a number of issues were still outstanding. In the meantime, their objections stood.
Speaking on behalf of Andover Youth Forum, Julie Tremlin said young people in Andover felt they had not been properly consulted, and the ones she had been in touch with were opposed to the scheme. Their aspirations for the town and themselves hoped for a better range of jobs than those currently proposed.
In the course of the meeting, which lasted two hours, it was suggested that Tesco's would progressively reduce the numbers working in the Megashed from 900 to a lower figure, as technology made it possible to reduce manpower and costs; that the figures for traffic generated by the project by Goodmans (the promoters) were too low - possibly by a factor of 4; that the £2m offered by the developers to improve transport infrastructure was derisory. Councillors had visited a similar warehouse operated by Tesco's in Litchfield, but the day chosen was one of the quietest of the year and therefore likely to have been unrepresentative. Although Tesco would not occupy all the site, and the rest of it was designated for a hotel and mixed office use, it was unlikely that anyone would locate such a business there on a site dominated by a busy warehouse.
(for more information on the meeting, see http://www.stopmegasheds.co.uk/Press%20releases/press%20release%2009-02-08.htm )
"I commend Rhonda and her small team on a well-informed, lively and responsible campaign which has opened up, rightly, a debate about the future of a site which well help determine the fortunes and reputation of the town.
I have made it clear from the outset that I oppose these proposals and repeat my opposition this evening. It has hardened as the debate has progressed.
I think this needs to be put in perspective. If you get close and just look at the site, look at its planning designation and look at the bid from Tesco, then I can see the temptation to say yes.
This is land designated for B8, here is a B8 application. What is the problem?
But if you pause, stand back and look at the issue in a wider perspective, you come up with a different answer.
David Howell and others have looked at the transport implications, whether the local transport infrastructure could cope, even with the extra capacity at 100 Acre roundabout. On that, I have a meeting with the Highways Agency on Tuesday - they have not yet come to a judgement.
My job as the local MP is to look strategically at the longer-term needs of Andover, and to use such influence as I have to nudge decisions in the right direction.
Andover has a lot going for it, but it has some weaknesses in its economic base that need addressing. We have high employment, but low average wages. This has an impact on the local economy – the sort of shops and services that can be sustained.
We lag behind other towns in Hampshire and the South East in attracting certain types of jobs.
We have many household names - HSA, Stannah, Britax, Twinings - but few in the growth industries of the future.
As the national economy shifts from manufacturing to the growth industries - pharmaceuticals, information technology, media and knowledge-based industries, and R&D, Andover risks being left behind, with its economic base rooted in an industrial past. Shire Pharmaceuticals used to be in Andover, and might have stayed had we had a Business Park
The airfield site is the last opportunity we have to rebalance our local economy and provide a modern setting in a competitive market for these jobs.
It is a huge site on our doorstep, with enormous potential. And we are going to sell it to the first bidder. This would be an historic missed opportunity.
Renaming the Walworth Industrial Estate the Walworth Business Park recognises there is an issue – but fails to provide an adequate solution.
I believe that councillors can and should refuse the application when it comes before them. They have sufficient discretion to turn it down and future generations will be grateful if they do.
I believe we should raise our sights – and be ambitious; and reach out for the Andover Vision that was launched last year.
I will also say that, when permission is refused, TVBC and HCC and the private sector should unite and go out and promote the Airfield as a destination of choice for businesses of the future. – and secure the Business Park we were originally promised."