Andover Town Centre
A Vision, Masterplan and Public Realm Framework for Andover creating a demonstrably achievable, future for this market town centre
Andover suffers many of the problems facing market towns. National shops have closed as it loses trade to larger centres, plus it faces significant competition from its own retail park which is similar in size to the town centre. Andover is therefore having to find different ways to compete.
The town centre has strong historic features, the Guildhall, High Street and St. Mary’s Church and modern civic assets such as the leisure centre, Andover College and Lights Theatre. Although these destinations are within a 5minute walk of each other, the separation created by the scale and layout of the Chantry Shopping Centre makes it seem much further. Redevelopment of the shopping centre proposes a network of new streets, revitalising the historic lanes and a more walkable town centre.
Although Andover’s employment is concentrated on the edge of the town, close to the A303, A34 and M3 it has key occupiers in the town centre, such as Simplyhealth. The masterplan proposes a physical environment which matches Simplyhealth’s ‘brand’ to help it consolidate its operations in a new sustainable building.
Andover is experiencing significant residential growth, but its population is separated from the town centre by the barrier of the Ring Road which is oversized for the traffic it carries. The masterplan creates more opportunities for town centre living, but also significantly reduces the scale of the Ring Road removing underpasses and large roundabouts, improving walking and cycling links into the town centre.
Perhaps most significantly, removing road space allows the River Anton to be opened up as a natural corridor, providing additional greenspace for the town centre. It is one of only 200 chalk streams in the world, is one of the town’s most distinctive features, and is currently 'lost' in a sea of highway infrastructure.
The Vision is founded on extensive engagement with the local resident and business community, and our understanding of the wider societal 'direction of travel' and what people increasingly expect from a 'modern market town'.
Social & Inclusive
The Vision restores two iconic buildings, the Guildhall and St. Mary's Church as civic and community focal points. It creates stronger civic space around them, and a new public space outside a relocated, modern Lights theatre.
Green & Ethical
Walking and cycling is prioritised, recognising that pedestrians and cyclists visit more often, spend more, and are more likely to support local businesses and the evening economy. Two new green corridors are created recognising both the Council’s commitment to tackling climate change and the increasing demand for such space post pandemic.
Creative & Enterprising
The Vision recognises that Andover town centre needs to be about more than retail. Improved facilities for Andover College emphasise the importance of skills and of young people to the town. A new and improved Lights Theatre is relocated to the centre of town, promoting local arts and creative organisations and supporting the evening economy. Sustainable workspace is created for small businesses and new office space for Simplyhealth.
Unique & Independent
Redevelopment of the Chantry Centre and restructuring of the Ring Road are key to rediscovering Andover’s heritage and natural assets. Alongside this the Vision promotes the local businesses and organisations that make Andover unique with a focus on ‘curating’ the activities in the new areas, promoting art and activities to animate the lanes and creating more opportunities for spill out space, street trading and events that promote local businesses.
The masterplan promotes rail and bus use, encourages more people to walk and cycle to the town centre, and encourages walking and cycling around the town centre to explore the wider attractions it has to offer.
The proposals significantly increase the amount of genuine ‘public’ realm, a shift from the private internal space of the Chantry Centre which has dominated the town centre. From our workshops with students reinforced by survey responses across a number of towns, the evidence shows that young people use town centres differently and don’t always feel welcome in civic spaces. Young people want places to meet friends, socialise and just ‘hang out’, spaces where they can choose to be active or to watch others being active. The masterplan therefore creates a much greater variety of public spaces between the College and the town centre.
The River Anton Corridor is a key north-south link, connecting natural and recreational areas on the edge of the town. It will enhance the natural qualities of the chalk stream, promote biodiversity and understanding of the environment by improving access and interpretation at key points. More detailed designs will be prepared over the next 6 months, working with local nature groups and the EA.
The Anton-Vigo is an east-west green link connecting residential communities, sports pitches and the rail station to the town centre. It brings more planting and green space into the town centre, reducing heat island effects and improving air quality. It also addresses the evidence showing the benefits to mental health of planting and green space.
The masterplan worked with Simplyhealth to incorporate flexible, energy-efficient office space, with significantly reduced parking. It also identified opportunities for small business/managed workspace, for health-hub/community uses and for civic office space.
The masterplan is underpinned by design principles for each area. We believe however that the greatest guarantee of quality is political commitment, public support and continuity of design vision.
The Council has put in place a dedicated team to deliver the proposals, and the Leader of the Council has publicly stated his support for the scheme throughout the masterplanning process. The masterplan has received strong support from HCC and from M3LEP which will help with delivery.
The scale of public sector landownership provides a tremendous opportunity to control long term quality. TVBC owns the Chantry Centre and has already put plans in place for selective demolition. Through its management of the Centre, and its future redevelopment, TVBC has the opportunity to ‘curate’ the town centre offer. This will enable it to encourage specialist, independent businesses and community uses and to encourage activities that bring wider social and economic benefits to the town. More detailed delivery testing and architectural feasibility work is currently being discussed with TVBC officers.
In addition to the public sector landownership, key areas of land are owned by Andover College and Simplyhealth. Both have stated publicly their wish to enhance their facilities in Andover, and have engaged positively with TVBC and the design team on the masterplan. More detailed feasibility work is also being discussed for this area.
To support delivery of the masterplan, TVBC commissioned our team to undertake a branding strategy and advise on events/meanwhile uses. This work will be undertaken alongside more detailed public realm designs, a Public Realm Design Manual and Developer & Occupier Guide all of which will control quality, sustainability and sourcing of materials and long-term maintenance. This work will maintain the momentum of the masterplan and inform the quality of all future proposals in the town centre.
The success of the masterplan is underpinned by the depth of engagement undertaken, despite the process being impacted upon by the pandemic. Our transparent approach, with evidence bases accessible on-line, our willingness to host breakfast meetings and evening workshops, our workshops with local students and our continuous briefings of local politicians has generated significant levels of support.
Our team works extensively with the local press and the BBC to raise the profile of the project and present positive messages about the town. As a result, almost 3,000 people provided input to the masterplan involving a cross section of the community across the borough. This has created a strong sense of local ownership, with projects directly linked to survey priorities.
The scale of roadspace reallocation in Andover is significant. It provides 500m of new riverfront in the town centre and a significant extension to Vigo Park. In response to the pandemic there were a series of radical proposals for reallocating highway space to pedestrians and cyclists but many were derailed by opposition from local councillors or local businesses. Our close working with HCC on traffic modelling, the engagement with local businesses and the placing of the proposals in the context of a strong economic and social 'narrative' has meant that there has been no noticeable objection to the proposals.
It is rare to find such overwhelming support for the level of radical change being proposed in a market town. The overwhelming majority of Andover residents support change only 11 wanted the town remain unchanged. The Chief Exec of M3LEP stated that the masterplan has 'changed the conversation in Andover', with a new sense of optimism. The Andover Gazette stated "it is safe to say we were blown away by this Vision for Andover".
Test Valley Borough Council (Client)
Andrew Cameron Associates
Currie & Brown
Area: 28 hectares
Timescale: Masterplan - 18 months; Implementation - 10+ years (commencing 2021)
Homes: 500 new town centre homes
New and improved public space: 5.5 hectares
Community involvement: 4,200 people responded to consultation
- Removal of gyratory, opening up 500 metres of river frontage
- Large roundabout removed, space returned to adjoining park
- Redevelopment of shopping mall and re-introduction of conventional streets, plus new shops, workspaces and apartments
- ‘Well Being Quarter’ developed around new linear park and leisure centre
- Facilities for pedestrians and cyclists improved through connected network of streets and removal of underpasses
- New and improved network of public spaces connecting key civic and community assets
"This visionary scheme successfully wrestles with a number of common challenges that are currently blighting many small towns. By reimagining the town as a network of pedestrian-friendly routes, the project tackles an unfriendly, vehicle-orientated road system. The proposal reconnects the town centre to the riverfront and re-establishes many other natural and heritage assets in the process."