Why you should move to Andover

PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 July 2020

Amport is a much sought-after village to the south-west of Andover, home to the Hawk Conservancy Trust and the Hawk Inn

Amport is a much sought-after village to the south-west of Andover, home to the Hawk Conservancy Trust and the Hawk Inn

Photograph by Emma Caulton

Redevelopment of this market town centre heralds a new era; now is the time to buy into Andover suggests EMMA CAULTON

The villages surrounding Andover provide a perfect rural retreat with country walks and old inns such as The George at Vernham DeanThe villages surrounding Andover provide a perfect rural retreat with country walks and old inns such as The George at Vernham Dean

Will the property market reopen to a post-lockdown exodus to the countryside? In May, estate agents were already reporting a surge in buyer registrations with a big demand for well-connected countryside around market towns. The expectation is that home working is here to stay, and buyers are looking to split their working week between home and office.

Purchasers planning their rural escape would do well to consider Andover – a market town that ticks many boxes. Property is good value, particularly if you’re coming out of London and the Home Counties. You should be able to find a house with space enough for a home office and a generously sized garden for the children to run around – factors with increased importance post-lockdown.

Schooling is impressive. Independents Farleigh School (leading Catholic co-educational prep school) and Rookwood School (a non-selective for children aged two to 16 described as having “an ethos of joyful learning” by the Independent Schools Inspectorate) already attract buyers to the area. In addition, a swathe of primary schools in Andover and surrounding villages are rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. These include Andover, Abbotts Ann, Amport, Appleshaw and Grateley Primaries, and Endeavour and Knights Enham Juniors – to mention just a few. There’s also a sprinkling of ‘outstandings’, among them Anton Junior and Clatford Primary. At secondary level John Hanson, Harrow Way and Winton Community Schools are all ‘good’.

Commutability is excellent. The A303 to the south links to the M3, and the A34 to the east leads to the M4. Train services take about 20 minutes to Basingstoke and just over 70 minutes to London Waterloo. There are also mainline stations in villages west and east of Andover – namely Grateley and Whitchurch respectively.

Ah, yes, those villages around Andover. Chocolate box pretty and hidden down lush valleys, they are surely one of Hampshire’s best kept secrets. If it’s village life you’re after, these are the imagined rural idyll of our dreams – unspoiled and untouristy. Hedgerow-edged country lanes wind past thatched cottages with front gardens crowded with delphiniums and hollyhocks, rustic pubs overlooking village greens, clear streams and old churches – all set against a patchwork of fields and woodland.

Travelling anti-clockwise, villages worth exploring around Andover to the east and north include Longparish, St Mary Bourne and Hurstbourne Tarrant. To the west there’s Redenham, Appleshaw, Amport and Monxton. To the south the area between Andover and Stockbridge has always been in demand and includes Abbotts Ann, Goodworth Clatford and Wherwell. As for property – choice ranges from barn conversions, country estates and quaint cottages to mid-20th century family homes and new developments in Andover itself.

So why has this area remained under many house purchasers’ radar? Perhaps it is because Andover itself underwhelms. Overdeveloped in response to London overspill in the 1950s and ‘60s, it is dominated by a confusing ring road and does not make the most of its riverside location or rich history. All this is set to change. Andover is on the brink of transformation.

Cllr Phil North, Leader of Test Valley Borough Council, grew up in Andover. He has an affection and appreciation for the town he calls home and is well placed to oversee its renaissance. For too long, Andover has looked tired and felt unloved – this despite the River Anton running through it and an historic core encompassing the elegant Greek Doric Guildhall, St Mary’s Church, Town Mills and attractive listed buildings along Bridge Street, East Street and High Street.

In order to deliver a revitalised town centre, the Council has brought on board Hemingway Design and NEW Masterplanning and already made a substantial commitment to this scheme by purchasing the Chantry Centre (Andover’s shopping mall and home to Boots and Waitrose). This purchase is part of a scheme to establish a new cultural quarter, developing Andover’s acclaimed arts complex, The Lights.

Overall the intention is to strengthen Andover’s distinct identity and establish a vibrant town centre with a focus on leisure, lifestyle and enterprise. This will include a new leisure centre in the town centre, a new riverside park and opportunities for creative businesses, pop-ups and start-ups.

The approach is radical and exciting. A new green ethos takes into account Andover’s compact size. Many live within a 20 minute walk of the centre, however the ring road presents a barrier. The plan is to reduce the scale of the ring road, improving access and facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, helped by the creation of a ‘green spine’ from River Anton to Vigo Park and better links to the rail station.

In conclusion: Andover’s future is looking bright. This area may not remain a secret much longer. For those in search of a country lifestyle close to a vibrant town centre with connectability, now may be the time to buy.

Agent talk

Jamie Armstrong, Managing Director, Evans & Partridge

Following the long-awaited resolution over the Brexit impasse, at Evans and Partridge we experienced a brisk upsurge in market activity with a record-breaking period of sales between 1st January and 31st March. Until the Covid-19 pandemic brought in restrictions in movement, we continued to sell village and country property at a positive rate. Unsurprisingly lockdown brought a dramatic fall in new enquiries and during the first four weeks the market was frozen. As we neared the end of April, however, we observed a change in behaviour with a steady increase in enquiries from both sellers and buyers.

We are hugely encouraged by this activity. Employees and employers have realised that work, in many cases, can be managed from home. This, and the effect of being incarcerated at home for weeks, will foster a greater appreciation of space both inside and outside the home. This may well trigger many, who have long hankered after a more rural living environment, to revisit this notion.

There is also a sense that in the wake of Covid-19, many will re-evaluate their priorities in life – with issues such as lifestyle and the environment coming to the fore – heralding an increase in relocating. In the longer term, city-based companies are likely to review the economic benefits of not pooling workforce teams into expensive city locations. We anticipate a trend towards out-of-town living as a result.

For those relocating, the Test Valley is a beautiful area and yet easily accessible to London. Here at Evans and Partridge, we are pleased to be building a bank of new instructions, with a portfolio of classic and contemporary countryside homes available to purchase this summer for that new life in the country.

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