Sir George addresses Public Meeting on the Megashed
30 Oct 2008
Lord Howell, Chairman of the Meeting
Lord Howell, Chairman of the Meeting
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Rhonda Smith, Chair of STOP
Rhonda Smith, Chair of STOP
Click for a full size picture
STOP held a Public Meeting at John Hanson School at 7.30 pm attended by over a hundred people.

STOP is a local campaign objecting to Goodman's proposals for a Megashed for Tesco on the disused Andover Airfield site.

The meeting was chaired by Lord Howell of Guildford, who opened the meeting by explaining that the A303 was never designed to cope with the volume of traffic that would be generated by the Megashed, were planning permission to be granted. The position would be aggravated now that permission had been given for another distribution at Solstice Park, 10 miles west on the A303.

Rhonda Smith, the Chair of the Campaign, brought the meeting up to date with developments since the application was rejected by Northern Area Planning Committee on September 1st. She explained that there was a disagreement between Tescos and Goodmans on the conditions relating to the application, and that it was most unlikely that TVBC would have to pay any costs, were the decision to go to appeal. She said the Highways Agency were in touch with Treasury solicitors about the conditions it would want to impose on any planning consent - so there was no "done deal" on the transport side. STOP was reflecting on whether TVBC's record of the September meeting of the Northern Area Planning Committee - when the application was refused - were accurate.

Caroline O'Flaherty, a planning lawyer for over ten years, explained why the papers submitted by TVBC officers to the Planning Committee were deficieint, and why many of the proposed Section 106 conditions were unenforceable. John Kelly, Marc Catchpole, Mike Cleugh, Peter Jopling, John Kelly and Simon Lunn spoke on aspects of the development relating to noise, health, road safety, and impact on the landscape and local businesses.

Sir George set out his views - see below - after complimenting the STOP campaign on its achievements so far. After a brief question and answer session, the meeting ended at 9pm. Rhonda Smith urged STOP supporters to attend the meeting of Development Control Committee at the Lights on december 1st, when the NAPC decision will be reviewed.

Extracts from Sir George’s talk at the STOP Campaign’s Public Meeting at John Hanson School, October 30th

I would like to put this issue in the broader context of the future of the town and its villages.

I am ambitious for Andover. It is a great place, but I want it to be better.

Over recent years, good progress has been made – we have a new theatre - Lights; we now have a Multi Screen Cinema and our own radio station, Andover Sound. Andover College has built on the strengths of Cricklade College and is making excellent progress, and a multi-million pound redevelopment scheme is shortly to take place on the site to modernise the facilities there. We have a new Sainsburys and ASDA. Test Valley Borough Council deserve credit for some of these achievements.

But progress needs to be made. The billions of capital thrown at the NHS has so far by-passed Andover Hospital. Andover as a Retail Centre needs to raise its game. We have many good shops in the town, but it needs to compete more effectively with Salisbury, Winchester and Basingstoke. We have to build on the recent improvements in the Secondary Schools so they, too, compete effectively with the secondary schools in Whitchurch, Stockbridge and Burghclere – and indeed with the local independent schools. Andover Station is beginning to look tired and needs more carparking space.

So to the airfield and its relevance.

Andover is a town with high employment, but low wages. We have many good firms and good employers– Stannah, Britax, Twinings, Simply Health. But jobs in the town are disproportionately in transport and manufacturing, and we are weak on high value-added jobs in the growth sectors of the economy – pharmaceuticals, the knowledge industries, information technology, media, research and development. This impacts on the aspirations of young people in the town, the training that is offered, the spending power in the town and the range of shops and general prosperity.

The planners wanted to use the airfield site to broaden the town’s economic base. And they were quite right to do this. They designated it as a Business Park to complement the two industrial estates Portway and Walorth. This would rebalance the town’s economy, raise sights of young people in the town, continue to rebrand Andover as per the Andover Vision Statement. It would reduce outward commuting for work. But having designated it as a Business Park, hardly any effort was made to market it, to go out and win business. This is a competitive field. Instead, the first offer that came along has been accepted. A megashed is not a business park. This is the last major site in the town zoned for employment and our best chance to plan for future prosperity.

Not only would Tescos represent a lost opportunity, it would also make the town more dependant on a major employer – instead of having a range of medium sized businesses on the site. Already we have seen them using their bargaining power to squeeze concessions out of the council.

So I remain opposed to these proposals. I hope they are turned down again, and then I want to work with everyone involved to build the Business Park we all want to see.
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