Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021

AS 2021 comes to an end The Advertiser team looked back at some of the most important stories we have covered across the year. The New Year started with the news of a brave Andover couple that confronted masked men and wrestled one to the ground as they successfully stopped their neighbour’s business from a break-in. Good Samaritans Spencer and Toni Whiteley spotted a pair allegedly attempting to break into a unit next to their gym at Alexander Bell Centre in the West Portway Industrial Estate.

They got a text earlier in the evening from a concerned neighbour who saw people hanging around their businesses.  As Spencer and Toni arrived, they saw a group of masked men attempting to break into the fire exit. “My military training kicked in at that point,” Spencer told the Advertiser.  “I shouted and screamed to cause havoc, then ran down the alley and chased after them.

One jumped the fence but I managed to grab another around the knees and wrestle him to the ground.”  As Toni ran towards him, Spencer was “tussling” with the man to keep him to the floor.

Once they had him under citizen’s arrest, Toni called the police who arrived in minutes. Hampshire Constabulary confirmed that a 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary. In the same month, a scientist combatting Covid and a museum trustee were among the people from Andover and its environs recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Dr Phillippa Spencer and Christine Beresford were among the many people receiving awards from the Queen to recognise their work.  Stockbridge mathematician Dr Spencer was awarded an OBE in the list, published on December 30, with his honour being given “for services to defence, particularly during the Covid-19 response”. Ms Beresford, from Andover, is the chair of trustees at the trust and the Winchester Military Museum.

She was given an MBE for services to cultural heritage in Hampshire. Later in the month, a new vaccine centre was set up at Andover War Memorial Hospital giving hope to thousands of residents eagerly awaiting their coronavirus jab.  A popular Andover restaurant also closed in January after its parent company entered administration.

Zintino, based at the Guildhall in the High Street closed down, with many jobs at risk. February It was revealed in February that a number of residents have died at an Andover care home following a Covid outbreak.

Sources told the Advertiser that at least five residents have died at Andover Nursing Home, located on Weyhill Road, as a result of the outbreak, with others having tested positive for the virus. Public Health England, which supports the home, confirmed that they had been informed of deaths at the home but were unable to provide an exact figure. A new restaurant opened in Andover in February after a chef, who has worked in five-star hotels in the Maldives and London, took over a popular Indian restaurant.

Chef Satish Kesavarapu bought Andover High Street restaurant Mumbai Brasserie, and rebranded it as Spice Route. Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021 February also saw the sad demise of three great Andoverians who made a marked difference to the town through their respective roles over the course of their lives.

Yvonne Bradbury, 69, helped thousands of struggling people through her position running Andover Crisis and Support Centre for three decades. Yvonne, of Newton Tony, died from unknown causes following a Covid battle, on February 7. The following day, dedicated charity campaigner, Stephen Pugh, of King Arthur’s Way, died from Covid-19 after suffering a battle with the virus.

He was in his fifties. A week later, a popular shopkeeper, who was the face of Squires on Andover High Street for more than seven decades, passed away on February 15. Alec Holloway died at the age of 95.

March Three homes were destroyed in March after a fire ripped through a terrace of thatched cottages near Barton Stacey.  At the height of the blaze, over 100 firefighters and 19 fire engines from across Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire were deployed to The Barracks in Bransbury, where they fought to save a fourth cottage.

The fire took almost three days to extinguish. Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze. April 

April saw yet another fire as three people were taken to hospital after a candle caused a blaze inside an Andover home.  Fire crews were called to a property in Herons Rise just before midnight on Easter Monday after a candle set fire to the wall while the family were asleep. Freya, Ryan, and one-year old Kaiden managed to get out of the house quickly, as well as their dogs.

By this point, neighbours became aware of the fire. Later in the month, the town lost a stalwart who helped change the lives of disabled people across the region through her fight for them to be treated equally. Elizabeth Hall MBE, who had dedicated her life to community service and was a founding member of Andover and District Mencap and a lifelong member of Andover Cricket Club, died at the age of 95.

Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021 The town sprung back to life in April with the ease of coronavirus restrictions, allowing shops, gyms, salons, pubs and restaurants to reopen. There were queues outside many barbers and hair salons as residents looked to get their lockdown locks trimmed and coiffed.

May Plans to build a holding facility for up to 500 asylum seekers near the A303 was abandoned by the Home Office in May. A piece of Ministry of Defence land south of the A303, near Barton Stacey, had been earmarked for the construction of portacabin-style accommodation for asylum seekers primarily from Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Eritrea. 

The Home Office had claimed that it would be providing safe accommodation for people who otherwise would have been “destitute”.  But concerns about the plans were raised by politicians, residents and human rights groups – with Cllr Phil North, leader of Test Valley Borough Council, saying the site was “akin to an open prison” and was concerned about residents walking along the busy A303, causing road safety issues. Almost 3,500 people signed a petition against it, supported by Cllr North and MP Caroline Nokes. 

The month May also saw Andover’s Conservatives winning four seats at the borough council elections. This put the party firmly back in the driving seat at Test Valley Borough Council, strengthening its overall majority with four new representatives. The result reversed the 2019 swing which saw the Andover Alliance make large gains. 

Later in the month, it was revealed that the Andover Carnival will not be going ahead in 2021 due to uncertainties surrounding coronavirus restrictions.  Posting in a community Facebook group, the organising team wrote: “It is once again with a heavy heart that we have to announce that we will be unable to hold an event as hoped on July 18th. Unfortunately there are still just too many question marks leaving us with very little time to organise a safe and entertaining day.”

The month also saw the sad demise of a true Andoverian. Richard Bennett who ran the Keiko Judo Club and was an instructor for Andover Judo and Ju-Jitsu Club for over 35 years, died suddenly at the age of 69. In the last week of May, a new mayor and deputy of Andover were elected following a historic meeting in the Guildhall.

On the town council’s first in-person meeting in the hall following the start of the pandemic, Councillor Barbara Long was appointed the first citizen of Andover when she was elected unopposed to be mayor. Cllr Robin Hughes was subsequently elected unopposed as her deputy. Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021

The annual mayor making meeting saw Cllr Richard Rowles step down after two years as mayor, with his deputy Cllr Lauren Banville also standing down. June Students at Andover College wowed audiences in June with their production of High School Musical – the first show since the pandemic. 

Following on from their successful live streamed pantomime, the Performing Arts team took on the challenge of producing a full-blown musical this year. The musical was the first show in two years, where the college has been able to welcome back an audience. Filling its own 100 seat theatre, to half capacity, the college was able to ensure government guidance was followed whilst giving its students an opportunity to shine.

In June, plans were unveiled to build a new solar farm the size of 93 football pitches. The site would stretch across the countryside between the south east of Perham Down and Kimpton, on the Hampshire and Wiltshire border. Later in the month, the town council objected to an updated application by Costa Coffee to build a new drive-through store in Andover.

The chain wanted to open a drive-through outlet on the roundabout on New Street, next to BP Munros petrol station and McDonald’s. It would have been Costa Coffee’s fourth cafe in Andover. But the original plans were withdrawn after concerns were raised by councillors about the impact the cafe could have on traffic.

However, the town council objected to the resubmitted plans as well. At a planning committee meeting, Councillor Barbara Long said she didn’t feel the new plans had responded to their previous concerns over the entrance way. June also saw plans for a new museum being given the go ahead after approval from council planning officials.

The Brooking Museum of Architectural Detail had applied for permission to change an industrial unit in Whitchurch into a museum to house its collection of architectural objects from across 500 years of history. Permission was granted by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, with the museum hoping to complete its purchase of the site and relocate in the near future.The Brooking Museum of Architectural Detail was founded by Charles Brooking, who has collected a range of building features including doors, windows and even post boxes over his life. Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021

July July saw the start of the, since ongoing, saga of anti-social behaviour in Andover.  Charity Andover Clothing Exchange (ACE), which had launched in February to help rehome unwanted items, pleaded for help after months of being subjected to building vandalism by a group of teenagers.

Founder Tania Hall said: “We don’t have the funds to replace the windows. We can’t be on our own there at the moment. Because they hang out there, especially during half term, I’m dreading the six weeks holiday coming up.

The offenders were targetting the premises from the rood of the former M&S unit. A police spokesperson said: “The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will be working in partnership with the store and site owner to address the security of the premises.” Later the same month, the future of Andover’s skyline was altered for good as plans to demolish the historic grain silos were revealed. 

The concrete silos, built in the 1940s and harking back to an era when many grain products were strictly rationed under measures that lasted from World War Two until 1954 when rationing was finally ended. The steel silos were a later addition, with the concrete silos having been condemned for grain storage Towards the end of the month, a teenager was “seriously assaulted” outside an Andover school.

Parents and schoolchildren were left shocked after the 14-year-old boy was attacked near to Roman Way Primary School in broad daylight and suffered cuts to his face and neck.
Andover’s MP Kit Malthouse told The Advertiser: “This is obviously a deeply disturbing incident and I applaud the police for their swift action.” On the final weekend of July, tragedy struck in one Charlton residential street, as lightning caused a fire to start in the roof of a semi-detached property, destroying two homes. Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021

Neighbours rallied round to support the victims, who thankfully had all evacuated the properties.  Michael Riley, whose home was destroyed, described it “like a cannon going off “. August

At the beginning of August, an horrific incident outside Tesco on River Way ended in the death of employee John Carroll. The 62-year-old was punched in the face in the car park outside the Tesco and suffered a serious head injury. He was rushed to University Hospital Southampton, but sadly died of his injuries ten days later.

Shane Richard Donovan, 27, of York Court , later admitted to the manslaughter of Mr Carroll.  Tesco’s chief executive Ken Murphy said: “We are deeply shocked by this horrific incident and heartbroken to lose a much-loved colleague.” And it was a terrible month for losing lives too soon, as at the end of the month three people were tragically killed on the A303.

Emergency services were called just after 8.40am on Wednesday, August 25, after a HGV was involved in a collision with a Vauxhall Astra, a food delivery van, and a recovery truck. Tina Ince, from Southampton, and recovery worker Tom Watson, also from Southampton, had stopped to help mother-of-two Alex Britton, from Portsmouth, who had broken down, when the lorry crashed into them. It has since led to calls for hard shoulder on the stretch of road, and more awareness from drivers about how to deal with accidents on the road.

September Postal delays was the topic of the month for Andover in September. What started as a few areas of the town experiencing poor service led to the Advertiser uncovering that the reason was a bee hive, found in the delivery office. 

A spokesperson for Royal Mail said that “safety is our number one priority” and apologised for inconvenience. Meanwhile, the famous ‘ash mountain ‘ plans at   the Enviropark near the A303 between Longparish and Barton Stacey were resubmitted, having previously been withdrawn. 
Reacting to the new application, Keep Test Valley Beautiful (KTVB), which represents residents against the plans, said: “We are on the case. If after proper consideration of the application we feel there are appropriate grounds for objection we will shortly circulate suggested objection points for consideration.”

October In October, the Advertiser’s efforts helped one family living in awful conditions wins its case for a lovely new home. Amy O’Neil and her three young children were living in a council-arranged flat owned by housing association Abri on Woodcutters Court, off Junction Road in Andover.

However, the flat was severely mould infested, to the point where two of her children were hospitalised for respiratory conditions, with her premature baby son being airlifted to urgent care. “I can’t risk being in this flat any longer. I’m scared of bringing my children home here.”

After the Advertiser made enquiries, Abri arranged for someone to visit the property and told this newspaper it had “agreed to a plan of action”.
Within two weeks the family had been moved to a three-bedroom property in Picket Twenty. In less good news, a popular Andover pub confirmed it would be shutting its doors for good after being priced out by the pubco who owns the site.
Vicki Harber, landlady at the Queen Charlotte Inn on London Road, told The Advertiser she was leaving behind the watering hole that “was a friend to
me” after the management company increased her rent by an eye-watering 73 per cent to almost GBP60,000 per year. Furthermore, anti-social behaviour was back on the agenda, as a much-loved Andover statue was toppled for the second time. 
The Millennium Man, which has overlooked the roundabout at the intersection of Weyhill and Salisbury Road since the year 2000, was  brought down after being hacked at the ankles.

October also saw a night of celebration as the 15th annual Pride of Andover awards took place at The Lights Theatre, with Kevin Rush of Andover Community Events scooping the top prize, Spirit of Andover. November Tributes were paid to two young soldiers were tragically killed near Tidworth after their car collided with a tree after leaving the road.

The young engaged couple – Courtney Jennings, 18, and her fiancee Jack Paolucci, 19 – were both serving members of the British Army and had been travelling to a Halloween part. Courtney’s family described her as “selfless, with the kindest heart”.
Later that month, residents across the region gave their thanks to our armed forces with a series of Remembrance events. An indoor garden was erected in the Chantry Centre, while a service and parade took place on Sunday 14.

However, this month also brought fireworks night, and while we were delighted to share lots of our readers’ fantastic bonfire snaps, we were saddened to report on the death of a rare Exmoor pony at Danebury Hillfort.  A mother from Nether Wallop called for an end to “random” firework displays after one of her beloved ponies died when she was spooked. Juliet Burnet said she was beside herself when she went to see her semi-feral herd only to find her 14-year-old mare, Knightoncombe Ghost Swift, had bolted when a TNT rocket was let off nearby, and fell to her death.

Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021 The Advertiser ended the month with an investigation into MPs expenses, which found that North West Hampshire representative Kit Malthouse had been given free tickets to events including the Euros and Laverstoke-based CarFest, worth hundreds of pounds. 
He said: “”All processes have been followed, everything has been appropriately registered with the Commons Registrar, and it’s in the public domain.” November was also the launch of the Advertiser’s Andover Appreciation Campaign, which has since gained the support of numerous prominent figures across the town.

After a satirical website listed Andover as one of the worst places to live at the start of the year, we took matters into our own hands in an attempt to prevent seeing our lovely town’s name there again. December After a reasonably relaxed few months with regards to  the coronavirus pandemic, in December the latest strain of the virus kicked it back up the priorities list. 

The Omicron strain, which is spreading more quickly thatn previous types but appears not to be leading to as many hospitalisations, saw the government begin introducing new measures. First up was the re-introduction of the travel redlist, which had been scrapped just a few weeks before.  It plunged travellers to and from a number of southern Africa countries into chaos, as PCR and quarantine hotel requirements were introduced once more, and often did not match up with flight arrangements.

Andover couple Nicola and Graeme Scott were among those hit. From South Africa, where they had been volunteering for charity, the pair told the Advertiser how they felt ‘stranded’, left without any support from the government. Within a week of flying home, the red list was abandoned once more. 

Next up was the Prime Minister’s announcement of an escalated vaccine roll-out. Andover’s jab hub was forced to stop offering walk-in booster doses, while doctors surgeries were told to put check-ups for over 75s on the backburner, much to the concern of residents including Cllr Iris Andersen. And alongside this, concerns continued regarding anti-social behaviour.

Events involving knives which had occurred din November were discussed by police, and it was revealed that officers believe the Basingstoke Street Gang to be operating in the area. Cllr Stu Waue, who has been working to address the issues, said: “We have local gangs of troublemakers that need corrective action before they move onto more serious things. It worries me that the local groups may follow the example of the Basingstoke Street Gang, or worse, get recruited by them.”

Review of the year: Looking back at the news across Andover in 2021 But it wasn’t all doom and gloom! On the run up to Christmas, Enham Village Shop delighted the community with an hilarious viral cover video of Fairytale of New York.

Meanwhile Andover’s very own Santa returned to the town, with five cruise nights, raising more than GBP5,000 for the Countess of Brecknock hospice.