Bringing in more independent retailers to Andover's high street is high on councillor Phil North’s wish list for transforming the town post Covid.

This includes the provision for flexible space for independent retailers as part of the masterplan to revitalise the town centre.

As previously reported in The Advertiser, the masterplan will be implemented by  HemingwayDesign and NEW Masterplanning, who will be working to revitalise the Chantry Centre to open up the High Street, restore historic connections, as well as create more spaces for events.

Speaking exclusively to The Advertiser about the plan moving forward, cllr Phil North said: “Covid has been tough on retailers, but the council has been able to help them out with a £25mn grant to help 2,000 businesses in Test Valley.

Romsey Advertiser: Inside the Chantry Centre Inside the Chantry Centre

“It’s important we give independent retailers a chance to thrive.

“Andover is ahead of the game, but we need to cultivate more space for independent retailers to come in,” he said.

The leader of Test Valley Borough Council is aware that there are “too many vacant retail units” in Andover but believes the master plan will help deal with this issue.

“It’s about attracting the right retail units to high quality independent shops which we already have a lot of in Andover.

"It's about embracing the changing nature of town centres.

“You have to link the retail with the leisure, with the living, with the public space and they all have to work in harmony with one another," he added.

In a public consultation meeting held in November 2019, increasing the number of independent shops was vocalised by almost 3,000 residents.

Many felt the town centre looked tired and dated, with 72 per cent hoping for more independent retailers.

Romsey Advertiser: There will be more green space created near the car parkThere will be more green space created near the car park

But there are some challenges cllr North believes need to be tackled before the master plan is adopted in September 2020, the main one being the current market.

“I have been pleased with the amount of people coming to the town centre and using our shops but am worried about the state of the economy and that the spending power might reduce.

“It’s essential we ask people to come and support our town centre, because if they don’t, then it will be more of a challenge to rejuvenate Andover and make it a fantastic place.

“And the challenge is getting the phasing right and the market will determine that in a way.

“But we have to come up with the cash to redevelop the town and there will potentially be more housing in the town centre, which is a great way for increasing the footfall.”