Chris Gregory, the new Town Centre Manager for Andover, convened a working breakfast at the Star and Garter, where Sir George spoke about his vision for Andover. 'Retailers in the town have gone through a difficult time, but as the economy is emerging from the recession and the economic indicators are set fair, I predict better times ahead.'
Sir George pointed out that the town was growing fast, as Picket Twenty and Augusta Park expanded eastwards. He also said that, as the Walworth Business Park was regenerated, there was inward investment creating more jobs, such as those from Ocado.
'This means that there will be more people living and working in the town, able to sustain a broader retail base'
Sir George complemented Test Valley Borough Council for their £1000 for new businesses setting up in empty premises, together with their Business Incentive Grants. Sir George said that there was competition for Andover, but Winchester, Salisbury, Newbury and Basingstoke were some distance away. 'This means that shops and businesses in Andover ought to be able to capture the local trade.'
Sir George said that it was now time to have another look at the Chantry Centre, which was beginning to look tired. 'People have been to Festival Place in Basingstoke and other shopping malls, and their appetite has been wetted. Andover needs to respond'
Sir George also suggested that the access to the High Street, through the lanes and alleys, might be improved to make the town centre more attractive.
"I regard myself as an Ambassador for Andover, and I am prepared to intervene where appropriate with central government to help accelerate the revival of the town centre.'
Sir George said it was appropriate that the breakfast meeting should take place at the Star and Garter, a property that had been invested in and was now providing a good quality service at a competitive price.
At the breakfast meeting was the Mayor of Test Valley Borough Council, Cllr Jan Lovell, the Leader Cllr Ian Carr, and Cllrs Peter Giddings, Iris Andersen and Chris Lynn.