Cllr Geoff McBride, the Chairman of Andover Town Council (ATC), kindly agreed to take some time to talk to Andover & Villages about his vision for the Town and how he feels the Town Council can lead the way with innovative, community-lead, projects.
We met at Cllr McBride’s workplace, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, just outside Oxford about 40 minutes from Andover. For a visitor to the laboratory it’s a very exciting experience, from the moment you turn onto the approach road you see a massive satellite dish to when you reach the laboratory gate and see a large ‘European Space Agency’ flag.
Cllr McBride is a scientist – a futurist, his specialities are horizon scanning, data mining, solving complex problems and crucially discovering the problems that are in need of further research and directing funding. What better skills could the Town Council ask for its chairman than these?
Walking around the facility Cllr McBride proudly shows me device, called a collimator, he developed from scratch which was sent to the moon. No bigger than a scrabble tile and wafer thin, the device was used as part of the x-ray spectrometer system on the SMART-1 mission in 2003.
After touring the vast facility we sit down to lunch to discuss his objectives for the Town Council. It’s obvious that Cllr McBride, an independent Cllr, is passionate about Andover and guiding the town to a sustainable and vibrant future.
Cllr McBride explains that the same evidence based approach to problem solving he uses in his work can be utilised in Andover to move the town forward. He tells me about the ‘Edible Towns’ scheme, an idea that has been a huge success in the town of Todmorden. The scheme involves groups of local people using public spaces, gardens and allotments to grow food. It is then used by the community directly or sold at markets or in local co-operative shops to generate income.
This remarkable scheme is now being mirrored across the county and Cllr McBride is talking to people about how to bring it to Andover, with one area of the Vigo Road Park already being used for this purpose [run by Transition Town Andover]. “It’s about getting the local community involved” he says.
Also of interest to Cllr McBride is Andover Trees United. Andover has many such groups of local people dedicated to schemes with various local projects such as food production to tree planting and litter picking.
“What I am really proud of thus far is the Andover Youth Council” Said Cllr McBride. “These young people are out there talking to their communities to find and understand what needs to be sorted in Andover. Keep an eye on this bunch, good things are going to happen”
With ATC only in its first term there is a substantial overlap of councillors being elected to both ATC and Test Valley Borough Council or Hampshire County Council. However with elections next year Cllr McBride hopes to encourage more ‘non-political’ people to stand for election and introduce views from all parts of the community.
It’s important to distinguish town councillors from their Borough and County colleagues in that they don’t receive payment for their duties. Town councillors are volunteers, giving up their own time to serve Andover. While some councillors are retired, others have day jobs. Cllr McBride also has part-time responsibilities with the Royal Air Force Reserves, who are recruiting, as Cllr McBride tells me enthusiastically.
As with any public organisation, Andover Town Council receives criticism, however what I have discovered after meeting Cllr McBride and attending meetings of ATC is the dramatic lack of public participation. Cllr McBride is trying hard to encourage local people to take an interest in the work of ATC and recognise both the benefits of the council and its limitations.
The most recent full council meeting was held on April 24th at the Guildhall, a full report is available here.
Some useful links with regards to schemes in Andover can be found below, along with a link to the recent news from the Town Council.