Regeneration Key to Recovery
“Regeneration is going to be the key to recovery.”
That was my key message at Test Valley Borough Council's Annual council meeting today.
The meeting took place online for the first time in its history due to the coronavirus pandemic, with members logging in remotely.
Please see below for my full speech:
"Thank you, Mr Mayor – and congratulations on your re-election.
When I delivered my speech in the Crosfield Hall last May – not in my most wildest of dreams did I think I would be making the annual speech this year from my back bedroom.
We live in strange and worrying times, Mr Mayor.
But I’m really proud of how every single one of our communities have come together to help each other through the current crisis. The borough council has been helping to coordinate this effort with our community services partner, Unity – and our Test Valley Community Helpline is ensuring those that are isolating get the food and medicines that they require, via our local groups.
Of course, the Borough Council has always played an important community leadership role in times of emergency and our previous work – led by Cllr Phil Lashbrook – to promote community resilience is now really bearing fruit.
I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Test Valley staff, many of whom have been working flat out through the pandemic – not only in coordinating the community response, but by processing grants to businesses and community organisations, housing the homeless and fully maintaining our waste collection service.
Mr Mayor, whilst our current challenge is to support the community through this pandemic – our top priority remains the rejuvenation of our town centres.
Regeneration is going to be the key to recovery and our work in Andover and Romsey has never been more important.
We’ve made good progress over the last year.
In Romsey we have pressed ahead with our plans to improve the area south of the Town Centre and around the Crosfield Hall. We’ve completed our final consultation, which included our innovative and nationally recognised Citizen’s Assembly, and we will be bringing our masterplan forward later this summer. Indeed, the entire project has been nominated for a national award for its comprehensive and innovative approach to consultation.
In Andover, we’ve attracted some of the best masterplanners in the country to come and give our town a bit of love, have consulted widely – including from a community shop in the town centre - and will adopt it later this summer. The masterplan lays out plans to redevelop the Chantry Centre, create a Wellbeing Quarter and bring the theatre into a more central location, which in turn will help improve the evening economy.
And that background work is continuing despite the lockdown, so that when we’re out the other side, we can move into the delivery phase.
Mr Mayor, the current restrictions on all our lives has led us to appreciate the natural world, perhaps more than we did before.
Our parks, open spaces and nature reserves have been hugely important in facilitating daily exercise and in ensuring positive mental health. In conjunction with the Hampshire and IOW wildlife trust, work continues to enhance Fishlake Meadows in Romsey and our new green space has recently been opened in Sherfield English. I want to continue to build on our current high-quality offer and identify more areas that local people can have access too. Not just nature reserves – but green lungs in our town centres too, which is such an important part of the Andover Masterplan, especially at Town Mills.
Mr Mayor, that love for the natural world, also underpins our work on the Climate Change agenda. And my thanks to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for putting together such a comprehensive Action Plan following our cross-party motion last year. Starting to deliver on that action plan will be a key focus for the forthcoming year.
Mr Mayor, in February, Test Valley received ministerial praise for successfully hitting our housebuilding target over the past three years. Since 2017, we’ve delivered more than 2,500 new homes, including 700 new affordable homes - helping people get on the housing ladder and to support those in the greatest need. Our work will continue on renewing the Local Plan this year, ensuring that we continue to build the right new homes in the right places and prevent inappropriate development.
Mr Mayor, you will have heard me talk before about our ambition to give our residents more opportunities to recycle. Well, assisted by the Environment Act and the need to standardise what is collected across the country - talks on a fundamental review of waste infrastructure in Hampshire have begun with our district and county colleagues. This is something I am doing my utmost to push along.
And finally, Mr Mayor as this is his last Full Council meeting, I can’t end without saying a few words about Roger – who has served this council for 19 years, 17 as Chief Executive.
Roger, your help and guidance has been invaluable to me - and on behalf of all members and local residents, thank you for what you have done for Test Valley.
Mr Mayor, Roger’s successor has an extremely hard act to follow, but with the vision we have set out – I’m sure that the new Chief Executive will continue to help us improve the quality of life for people who live in Test Valley."