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Andover Town Council Meeting of Electors – 20th March 2014

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Andover and Villages was invited to the Andover Town Council Meeting of Electors, back in early February by Chairman Geoff McBride. As the service Andover & Villages provides grows rapidly, it was a great opportunity to ensure Andover continues to be informed of how the Andover Town Council is working.

The meeting was opened by Chairman Geoff McBride (GMB), and went promptly on to the presentation of the Andover Town Council Grant awards. They were awarded to, Andover VIP’s, 1st Andover Girls Brigade and the Harmonium Singers. The members of the public, who came to receive the awards then left the meeting. Remaining Public included 4 members of the press, 2 TVBC Councillors and 2 members of the public.

Item 1. Apologies for Absence

GMB passed over to Andover Town Council Clerk, Wendy Coulter for the meeting apologies which were from Brian Page, Phil North and Marion Kerley.

Item 2. Annual Report of the Town Council

GMB spoke to the room as Chairman of the Town Council (ATC). He spoke of how the ATC is in its 4th year of operation and, whilst much progress had been made, he felt there was more to do. GMB gave an overview of the past year; In June 2013, Ron Khuman was elected onto ATC. The Christmas Lights switch on was a great success, with more lights than in previous years and a 35ft Christmas Tree. The Planning Committee Neighbourhood Plan project is being worked on. A Blue Plaque is being looked at being placed at 12 High Street to celebrate the life of Reg Presley, the location is where The Troggs used to practice.

GMB spoke about the bad weather Andover was hit by in December and the resulting drop of the Christmas Tree. GMB praised David Drew (DD) for coming straight out to assist with the situation. GMB explained the tree was righted, however went on to drop again as many others around the country also had. At this point the decision was made to take down the tree for the rest of the season.

GMB handed over to Katherine Bird (KB) in the absence of Phil North, who is Chair of the Policy & Resources Committee and not present at the meeting. KB is Vice Chair of the aforementioned committee and was unaware that she would be needing to make a presentation. KB however took control and spoke confidently. She stated she would not insult the intelligence of the attendees by merely reading through the report, which everyone in attendance was given a copy of. KB highlighted the main points. The Town Centre Manager position that is currently open for application from individuals or businesses in order to promote the Andover Town Centre, which is a tri-partite agreement between ATC, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC).

KB also touched on the success of the Christmas Lights in 2013.

GMB handed over to Alan Cotter (AC), who is Chairman of the Planning Committee. AC reviewed the work of the Planning Committee over the year, included the fact that they had met over 17 times to make informed and reasonable observations on the town’s planning applications. AC also spoke about the Neighbourhood Plan and that he will be expecting the public to get heavily involved in the project.

GMB handed over to DD, who is Chairman of the Allotment Sub-Committee. DD told the room that over the last year the waiting list for allotments had been reduced from over 100 to single figures. He explained that allotment costings had been frozen at 40p per sqm and that the aim was not to make money from allotments, but to ensure they paid for themselves. With this in mind, all new allotments require a £50 deposit to ensure that when they are handed back to the council, they are in a fit state.

The billing year for allotments has been changed from April to April to September to September to ensure that any new owners are not joining during the growing year. DD paid tribute to the office staff, Wendy and Mary.

GMB handed over to Cllr Zillah Brooks (ZB), Chairman of the Amenities & Town Development Committee. ZB first spoke about the Christmas Lights switch on and its great turnout. ZB told the room that a staggering 32,224 people attended the market and evening switch on, however she did not have any figures to compare that to and so was unable to say if it was an improvement, but was sure it was. ZB noted the tree falling and said she wanted to thank Cllr Barbara Long and her husband Nigel for coming out until the early hours of the morning to assist with the issue.

ZB spoke about the Andover Town Centre Manager and told the room that there was £27,900 pa for three years available to an individual or company, who could take on the role of promoting the town centre.

ZB praised Steven Hardstaff for a report he had written on the lack of lighting on the Micheldever Road.

ZB told the room that a survey of Andover High Street had been undertaken, and that it had been decided to remove litter bins from next to seating areas. ZB said that the High Street was full of bins and some were being removed, more hanging baskets were to be added, bollards to be repaired and flags and bunting added.

Item 3. Questions from the Public

GMB asked the public if there were any questions.

Nigel Long (NL), Test Valley Borough Councillor asked, as ATC was in its 4th year, if they would be taking over more responsibilities from TVBC and looking to reduce the Andover Town Levy and extra precept.

KB said she would answer NL and told him that it was something she would be discussing further in her capacity as both TVBC Councillor and ATC Councillor.

DD spoke up and said that he had looked at the year figures and that the Andover council tax bill for a Band D property was in fact around £1 less than the total council tax bill for a Band D property in Romsey. DD went on to say that it was important to not take on more responsibilities from TVBC unless it benefited Andover residents financially – there was no point cutting the grass in certain places if ATC could not do it cheaper; it would only benefit if the same or more could be done for less.

GMB said Strategic Planning Sessions will be set up to look at these issues.

Chris Lynn (CL) asked KB what the Levy entails.

KB responded with:

1. Outdoor Sports Facilities

2. Employee Related

3. Playgrounds

4. Cemetaries

5. Certain Public Halls

KB went on to say that it wasn’t the time or the place to talk about the upkeep of children’s play areas or cemeteries.

NL asked why TVBC was not passing money on to ATC given to them from HCC for that reason.

Karen Hamilton (KH) told NL for clarification that the Levy was the same as Council Special Expenses on the Council Tax Bill.

GMB interjected saying that it was an interesting and thorough dialogue, but it was time to move on.

Manuela Wahnon (MW) asked ZB to clarify her previous comments regarding the removal of litter bins from the High Street.

ZB said that there were an excess of bins in the High Street and that it was considered people did not want to sit next to a smelly bin that is not emptied everyday.

NL said from the public area that the bins were emptied every day.

MW said she was shocked at ZB’s comments about removing the bins, and was rendered speechless.

ZB reiterated that not all bins would be removed.

Sandra Hawke (SH) said that the reason the bins had been originally placed next to seating areas was because people were reluctant to walk a few steps to place their rubbish in a bin; that they were more likely to clean up after themselves if the bin was right next to them.

Andy Fitchet (AF) spoke up and said that it was not just ATC who was working on the matter of the bins in the High Street, but it was also the Andover Town Summit.

ZB said that people had been asked for their opinions on the placement of the bins and they thought moving them was a good idea.

MW said that no one had asked her opinion about the bins and she felt it was the wrong way to go, by removing them. She went on to say she would speak to ZB after the meeting, regarding the removal of the bins.

Iris Andersen (IA) asked how ATC would be getting more residents involved in the ATC, she said that many people wanted the ATC so much and no one was attending the meetings.

KH said that the apathy shown is not purely indicative of ATC but that it was seen at all parish council meetings.

IA reiterated her question.

GMB said that it wasn’t a secret that he felt the way forward was to involve young people and then spoke about the Andover Town Youth Council (ATYC) who are in their infancy and are currently being guided and trained by members of the ATC.

AF said that over the last week there had been much criticism of ATC on Social Media, and that he had invited those who has spoken out to attend that evening’s meeting and not one of them had turned up. He felt this was reflective of the apathy currently seen.

AC said that he was expecting a great deal of community input to the Community Plan.

GMB said that the ATC discussion about the War Memorial saw the meeting packed.

DD said that some seemed to think the working of ATC were simplistic, but that he had read on social media the suggestion that 2 hours free parking being given would solve the issues with the town. DD pointed out that this would cost over £1 million a year which would add 20% onto the council tax of every person in the area; he said it wasn’t so simplistic.

DD said that he wanted to move back to bins and MW, and said that there was no one better to consult on the issue than MW and that she should be listened to and taken on board.

NL said that he had noticed in Appendix H that the allotments were spending more than they made and that perhaps services should be put out to tender.

DD said that if they were to rigidly tender for every job that there would be no goodwill resource in emergencies. He said that Mary and Wendy work hard to keep down costs.

KB said that tendering for every job was a costly time consuming business. Each tender must have a written document that must be researched and that in terms of man hours and work; sometimes it was more costly.

NL said he had a final question and then he was going for a pint. He asked about the ATYC and said that he supports it, but wants to know why it’s private and why the public can’t attend. He just wants to watch and listen and he went on to say it was paid for by the public and so it should be open.

GMB said that the ATYC was in its infancy and they were taking baby steps to ensure the Youth were comfortable in their roles and surroundings before they were opened up to the public viewing.

NL pressed for his question to be put to ATYC

AF stepped in and said that it was a difficult situation. He said the members were all under 18 years old and that ATC has a duty of care for them, it was important that they were able to grow into the positions in a safe space. AF said that he felt it would be a year before the meetings would be public but there were reports written by Sophie Porter and published on the Andover Town website.

MW spoke to NL and said that instead of trying to get public into the ATYC, why didn’t he use his keen efforts to get everyone to the main ATC meeting.

NL said that he didn’t want to ask the ATYC any questions; he just wanted to observe the meetings.

AF said the ATYC was in a stage of development and they would be given a safe space until they were confident.

NL said as he walked out of the door to ask them.

MW ran after NL.

ZB stood to speak about the sculpture that was stood on the table in front of her and said that it had been chosen to be placed on the Hundred Acre Roundabout by Andover Airfield. ZB explained that developers must pay 1% towards art and, if it is not used, the money is to be returned to them.

68 responses both nationally and internationally came in to be considered. These were reduced down to 20 and then down to 4, which a panel discussed, and unanimously chose the sculpture which depicts 2 planes soaring into the air. It was chosen because of its affiliation to the original site.

The sculptor is based in Cumbria and worked in Engineering. The sculpture should be in situ by the end of September. The sculpture will be higher than the street lights and the end plane depicted is called ‘The Andover’.

GMB brought the meeting to a close and a large majority of the attendees went for a curry.

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