THE RAPE OF ANDOVER
In 1968 there were still 59 buildings of architectural interest in Andover. In the five years since then, 15 of these have been demolished; 6 more are due to be demolished, 10 more are threatened, the fate of 6 is uncertain, leaving only 29 unthreatened. Of the 16 buildings wholly or partly built in the 15th or 16th century, only 5 are not directly threatened.*
No. 38, MAY 1973 Vol. IV No. 3
Edited by Andrew & Wendy Selkirk, 9 Nassington Road, London NW3 2TX, Tel. 01-435 7517
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The reasons for this massacre are not far to seek: Andover is an overspill town for London, and in order to provide for the increased population, a new shopping centre has been blasted through the middle of the old town. This is official policy. As everywhere, the Planners have decided that new shopping centres are best sited in old towns. Since today's shoppers use cars, this means further destruction to provide car parks and then yet further destruction to provide new roads for the new traffic generated by the new shopping centre. Meanwhile in the suburbs, acre upon acre of henhouses are springing up to provide accommodation for those displaced by all the destruction.
Nor is Andover by any means unique. The neighbouring town of Basingstoke was destroyed a decade ago (Basingstoke New Town, they now proudly call it) . In town after town after town, in Bath, in Oxford, in Gloucester, the construction of new shopping centres is reducing formerly charming towns into concrete jungles.
This must stop. It is time to blow the whistle, to say quite simply: "There shall be no more redevelopment in historic towns." We must take the 'Planners' firmly in hand and tell them to do what other countries do. In France new hypermarkets are situated on the edge of the towns, by the exits to the motorways, where the traffic can easily be accommodated. Meanwhile the old town is preserved for people to live in, so that those living there can walk to work. The Aldwark scheme in York shows what can be done to rehabilitate decayed urban areas.
It is not enough merely to oppose redevelopment in town centres. New life styles demand new shopping centres situated on the lines of the new traffic flows. Thus when Messrs. Woolworths or others apply to build new hypermarkets on out of town sites, archaeologists must be prepared to support them actively. As archaeologists we are students of change; but unless we direct the forces of change into less destructive channels than those of recent years, there wil l soon be no historic towns left.
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Figures from: Andover: The Archaeological Implications of Development, by Sara Champion, published by the Andover and District Excavation Committee.