Working for local householders

Plans to charge householders for pre-planning application advice have been put on hold by Test Valley Borough Council thanks to Romsey councillor Mark Cooper.

The Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee was asked to approve the proposal by Head of Planning,Paul Jackson, at its first meeting of 2011. Most the pre-application fee levels suggested to Councillors were mainly on a sliding scale* dependent on the size of the application.  However, pre-application advice for householders was recommended to a flat rate of £40 by Mr Jackson.  Councillor Cooper said that a flat rate would be perceived as inherently unfair. “It is reminiscent of the old, hated poll tax”, he said.

“An applicant asking advice about a garden shed would be charged exactly the same as a householder planning a complex £75,000 extension. In any event, householders as local Council taxpayers, as distinct from local developers out to make a profit, should be entitled to receive sound planning advice”.

“The householder wins because he or she is able to make a realistic and achievable application; the Council wins because the planning application is is in better shape to be dealt with by the planning officers. Furthermore, the cost of administering a householder charge would be significant but the income derived would be very small. Larger, commercial applicants should certainly pay for pre-application advice, but not local householders planning home improvements or a small extension”, he said

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed with Cllr Cooper’s view and voted to recommend to the Council’s Cabinet that the householder pre-application fee proposal be scrapped. Fee proposals for larger, non-householder applications are not affected. As a member of the Overview and Scrutinty Committee I fully supported Cllt Cooper’s proposal and I hope the borough cabinet will do the same.

Guildhall Jubilee benches

The pair of wooden Jubilee benches currently installed outside Andover’s Guildhall will shortly be removed for refurbishment following persistent misuse.

Councillor Marion Kerley arranged for the benches to be installed during her year as Mayor of Test Valley in 2000. She says “Sadly the benches are now so badly damaged that they have to be removed. In light of the vandalism over the years and the impending change to the use of the Lower Guildhall, it is now planned to refurbish and relocate them to other parts of the town where they can be fully appreciated and used as they should be.”

I have spoken to Mrs Kerley regarding this and expressed my concern that the seats were to be removed and today emailed the corporate director at Test Valley to re-enforce this point as follows.

“I was disappointed to hear these benches were to be moved from the Guildhall. While I accept they need renovation to take them away permanently from the Guildhall and High Street is to remove a frequently used public facility.

On almost every occasion I’ve been in town I have seen people using them despite the fact they are damaged. Furthermore to remove them prior to giving Prezzo permission to use the Guildhall forecourt implies the decision to allow Prezzo to occupy this area is already made. In fact this point has been made in a letter in today’s Andover Advertiser.

I would prefer to see them remain where they are in front of the Guildhall and facing down the High Street. If they have to be moved can they be relocated either at the sides or further forward of the cobbled area so local residents still have the opportunity to sit there, in the sun, and enjoy the view of the High Street.”

I look forward to the answer.

Improvements to Walworth Industrial Estate

In May TVBC’s Cabinet agreed a recommendation start an important project to rejuvenate the Walworth Business Park. Having reviewed all the options, they gave the go-ahead to appoint a private sector investment partner to kick-start the process of making long-term improvements to the Business Park. A number of short-term improvements have already been made to the communal and public areas including the installation of new signs, verge cutting and the completion of the first phase of landscaping.


Andover Liberal Democrats welcome the news that at last some action will be taken to improve the Walworth Industrial Estate. I and St Mary’s ward councillor Rod Bailey attended the cabinet meeting when the options were discussed. Cllr Bailey was a member of the panel which investigated options for improving the estate and addressed the cabinet on the issue. We both support the proposals agreed by the cabinet.


I am pleased we can now move forward with some action to improve this estate which is vital for the economic future of Andover. The improvements so far have been mainly cosmetic and incomplete. At lot more must be done to make the area attractive to potential users. It is essential for the local economy we start the real work of bring this estate into the 21st century and attracting new businesses to the town.

East Anton site traffic

East Anton

I have had a number of complaints from residents about East Anton construction traffic using Icknield Way north to Newbury Road.

The council’s planning legal agreement (section 106) is quite clear that all construction traffic must access the site via Smannell Road not Icknield Way nor Viking Way.

I have reported a number of lorries who have ignored this agreement to both the highways department and the site manager. Any lorry driver ignoring the agreed route will be ordered off site and not allowed to return.

If you see construction traffic using the wrong route please note their registration number and let me know via the Report a Problem link on this page. I will then take it up with the relevant authorities.

Guildhall signs approved


At yesterdays meeting of Test Valley’s Northern Area Planning meeting approval was given for advertising signs on the Guildhall. The application was from Prezzo for signs on the windows and plaques on each door announcing their presence in the building. I am pleased to report that a further application for illuminated lecterns with menus outside the building was withdrawn.

Many residents have objrcted to the signs and I agree with them. The proposal is that every window (24 in all) will have Prezzo emblazoned across it in addition to three further plaques mounted on the walls. This I believe is completely over the top and will spoil the building the centre of our town and an important tourist attraction. There can be no-one in North West Hampshire that doen’t know Prezzo are moving into the Guildhall. We do not need 24 reminders across every available window.

I was disappointed to hear some members of the committee arguing that the approval must be given so as to speed up the conversion of the building into a restaurant and that any one opposing the application was trying to block the changeover. Council officers made it quite clear that the change of use and the alterations to the building were separate matters and that one does not automatically follow the other.

My ammendment, backed by St Mary’s ward councillor Mike McGarry, to restrict signs to the doors only was defeated by eighteen votes to two. A sad day for the Guildhall and for Andover.

Core Strategy condemned by government inspector

‘Unsound’ was the Government Planning Inspector, Ms Jill Kingaby’s decision on Test Valley Borough Council’s Core Strategy at a public meeting in Andover on Friday 1st May. The Core Strategy is the planning blueprint for the future of Test Valley, Andover and Romsey up to 2026.

“Being found ‘unsound’ means that the Core Strategy is therefore withdrawn and the Enquiry in Public (EiP) scheduled for this summer is cancelled. The Core Strategy will have to be re-drafted to meet the withering criticisms of its layout, content, faulty research and lack of vision expressed by the Planning Inspectorate. Councillors and members of the public listened in silence as Ms Kingaby detailed major faults in the council’s planning strategy and condemned the council’s failure to follow government guidelines.

The document gave a sketchy collection of facts about the borough but failed to provide a vision for the future which responded to local needs and was locally distinctive. “The policies were unlikely to meet the needs of Andover” she said. The council was also criticised for failure to work with service providers to improve local infrastructure.

There was a failure to spell out how much development would take place, where, when and by what means. The council placed too much reliance on future plans rather than giving direction itself. The document was too long; it merely replicated government policy and previous TVBC documents and contained unnecessary extra policies. Housing provision was not done according to government guidelines, was muddled and too dependant on windfall sites. Finally the Government Office of the South East (GOSE) had identified a number of inconsistencies in the policy and their advice was ignored.

The failures had all been highlighted in advice by GOSE and raised at council meetings earlier this year by Lib Dem councillor Mark Cooper. The Tory leadership ignored this and went ahead and published a Local Development Strategy a month after GOSE had instructed Test Valley to redraft it.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Cooper said “Such incompetence is breathtaking and there is going to be a very high financial cost to meet. I warned them, again and again, that the Core Strategy was unsound. Test Valley’s response was a bemused silence. The Planning Portfolio holder, Cllr Hatley, who has presided over this mess, should resign forthwith.”

I fully agree with Cllr Cooper. I am appalled at the incompetence and arrogance which has been shown by the council leadership. They deliberately ignored advice, they misled councillors and they thought they knew better than the government inspectors. As a result the council has been made to look incompetent and the council tax payers have been left with a bill which could run into several hundreds of thousands of pounds. The entire leadership of the council, not just Cllr Hatley, should be considering its future position.

Tree Preservation orders for Enham

Trees on Newbury Road

Several more tree preservation orders have been served on trees and woodland in Enham Alamein. This is the next stage of a survey of all of the trees in the village which I requested in April of last year.

The first series of TPOs covered the memorial trees on Newbury Road. This latest series is in two parts. The first covers trees along Newbury Road in front of the factory, in and around Landale Close and around Dunhills Lane and Greenfields. The second order covers hedges and trees around the playing fields on Knightsbridge Road and along the cinder path.

This does not mean the trees cannot be cut or removed but does mean that any works cannot be carried out without first applying for planning permission

 If anyone would like further details please contact me.

Prezzo gets approval


At last night’s Northern Area Planning Committee the application to convert Andover’s lower Guildhall into a Pizza restaurant was approved. The plans now have to be referred to the Secretary of State before the changeover can go ahead.

I am disappointed with this decision. The objectors from STAG raised real questions about the validity of the application. The council’s response was muddled and unconvincing. It failed to prove it had followed its own guidelines by seeking to maintain the Guildhall for community use. It could not explain the so-called financial losses cited to justify the decision and it relied on the provision of a substandard alternative as a reason for a clear breach in policy.

I was particularly annoyed to hear some councillors calling for a vote without even waiting to listen to the end of the debate. Andover deserves better than this.

Also of some concern was the claim by some members of the committee that another restaurant in Andover would bring in more business and enliven the town’s economy. My own discussions with local restauranteurs suggest that in the current economic climate there is insufficient business for exisiting restraurants. Any new one would only take clients away from them and could lead to one or more of them folding. I hope this is not the case the council should be protecting local businesses not undermining them.

The measure of a civilised society is how well it cares for its heritage, its local businesses and its minorities. The ruling group on Test Valley borough council have ignored this in the pursuit of short term financial gain. Andover Lib Dems will continue to oppose this short sightedness and work for a fair deal for Andover.

East Anton MDA latest

The decision on the outline planning application for land at East Anton was issued today (Wednesday 13 August). The development includes 2,500 dwellings, an area for employment purposes, schools, local centres, playing fields, parkland, public open space, sports hall, community centre, community worker, structural landscaping and associated infrastructure.

Financial contributions from the developers towards off site infrastructure provision, including the highways improvements, exceed £13 million and forty percent of the dwellings will be affordable.

This is probably the largest application for development the Borough has ever dealt with. Discussions with local councillors, including me and county councillor Robin Hughes, and the developers/landowners started in the late 1990s and the process has involved officers from both the County and Borough Councils.

This is just the first stage of permission and development. A further reserved matters application will be submitted before the end of this week as the developers, Taylor Wimpey, hope to make a start on site in November this year.

Although the development is now to go ahead despite strong local opposition there is still opportunity to ensure local people have an input in how the development proceeds, what traffic controls are in place and what planning gain there is for exisiting communities.

I am currently working with officers to ensure the promised landscaping between the new development and Woodhouse is planted this year rather than waiting for a further year before any planting takes place.

Both Robin and I will continue to monitor progress and negotiate for the best possible deals for both new and exisiting residients.

More houses for Andover?

Andover Liberal Democrats have expressed concern over the government’s revised housing numbers for Andover. Government planning inspectors are seeking a further allocation of 1100 houses in the Andover area. I wonder whether the inspectors were aware of the pressure put on the town by such a large increase in numbers or they have any understanding of the town and its needs.

Andover has already seen an allocation of 3700 homes at East Anton and Picket Twenty. Further plans for building at Picket Piece and on other sites will bring the number of new homes in Alamein and St Mary’s wards to over 5000. If an additional 1100 are now added this would mean a 20% increase in the size of the town over the next 10 to 20 years. This cannot be achieved without a corresponding improvement in the town’s infrastructure – the roads bus and train services, the water and sewage systems, shops, leisure facilities, telephone services and schools. This investment must be made before or during the new building and cannot be funded only by local taxpayers or by the developers.

Liberal Democrat councillors will be seeking talks on improving Andover’s infrastructure before further building takes place and strongly opposing over-development in any one part of the town.