Business News


International Furniture, Andover
International Furniture, Andover

This is a direct response to Kevin Farrer, owner of International Furniture in Andover:

Without any intention to play up to your obvious desire to draw attention to yourself, we will state our position here:

We have always shown both sides of the argument regarding the way that Andover’s Business Improvement District (Andover BID) came about.

We sat on the Steering Group and resigned when it became obvious that the direction was not fully representative of the town, largely thanks to a lack of understanding about or lack of communication with those who mattered – the businesses.

This was a group of entirely different people to the company created to see the #BID through for the next five years.

** We stood up and shouted with the same voice as you.

We note you’re happy to use our media outlets when facts suit you, but not when you are faced with facts that, you – for reasons only you will understand – disagree with.

TVBC told us today, “Mr Farrer’s actions in court following the outcome of the hearing are regrettable.

“He, like other business owners, will be aware that the council is legally obliged to collect the BID levy on behalf of the BID company, which is entirely separate from the council.”

We, like the vast majority of other businesses in Andover town centre want improvement.

With £1,000,000 due to be collected over five years to help make Andover town thrive, we must have broad support with the system we have in place.” You have a chance to influence this, but you refuse.

A great many businesses failed to vote on the BID process, for which we regret somewhat, as a vote is a chance to have your say.

We do not necessarily agree with ‘the way’ it was done, but feel that we must all work together for the common good of the excellent businesses that occupy our town centre.

Andover is not unique in that there are issues facing high street retailers. But, we do have a delightful town centre, and with the will and investment placed in the Andover BID, we (as levy payers, and like the vast majority of businesses here) strongly believe we should all work together to make this place better.

The fact you refuse to accept this saddens us. You have been a strong part of the local economy and provided pleasure to thousands of visitors over the years with your exceptional window displays.

Test Valley Borough Council rightly say, “Recognising that this is the first year that businesses will pay the BID levy, we have issued both informal and formal reminders in respect of outstanding amounts. It is important to remember that the vast majority of businesses have paid their levy.

“The summonses heard in court yesterday related to less than 10 per cent of the total levy due.

“The money the council collects is passed to the BID company in its entirety and is used for the sole purpose of enhancing the town centre for businesses, shoppers and visitors alike.

Like TVBC, we agree, “Regardless of individual views, the ballot was undertaken in accordance with the BID regulations and this was confirmed by the Secretary of State’s decision to uphold the ballot following an appeal. He expressly supported the council’s right to vote in favour of the proposal, recognising that the council too will pay the levy in respect of its town centre assets.”

Your grandstanding episode at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court yesterday was unfortunate and no doubt seen by many businesses who want to improve our town centre as rather contrite, but also expected from someone who likes to see his picture in the press.

If you can find a way to overcome your own prejudices and support the improvement of the town, we think everybody, retailers, residents and visitors would warmly welcome this.

About the author

David Harber

David Harber is the founder and Managing Director of Love Andover, including the Love Andover Observer newspaper and 95.9FM Andover Radio. He is a fellow at the Royal Society of Arts and a card carrying member of the Nation Union of Journalists.