Town set to pros­per de­spite credit cri­sis

Ash­ford is en­ter­ing the loom­ing global re­ces­sion in a po­si­tion of strength, the coun­cil says. That was the mes­sage from Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil’s State of the Bor­ough meet­ing last week, re­ports

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Opinion -

ASH­FORD could be one of the first towns to get out of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis and take ad­van­tage of an eco­nomic up­turn.

The coun­cil be­lieves that ad­van­tages such as the high speed rail link and low lo­cal costs for busi­nesses could aid a speed­ier re­cov­ery.

Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil leader Paul Clokie, in his State of the Bor­ough ad­dress, said: “In the dif­fi­cult eco­nomic cir­cum­stances we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at the mo­ment some of our short term tar­gets will not be de­liv­ered but this is long term.

“Ash­ford will be well placed to take ad­van­tage of an even­tual up­turn.”

Richard Alder­ton, head of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment, said: “With low costs for busi­nesses in Ash­ford and qual­ity of life, it is hard to find any­one best placed for an up­turn.

“With the credit crunch Ash­ford should be in a po­si­tion to pull out of that the quick­est.”

The mes­sage of hope came last Thurs­day in the meet­ing that fo­cused on the Sus­taina- ble Com­mu­nity Strat­egy, the bor­ough’s 10-year plan for the decade 2008-18.

Cllr Clokie stressed the area’s ad­van­tages, par­tic­u­larly the ar­rival of the high speed link in De­cem­ber 2009, which would halve jour­ney times to Lon­don to 37 min­utes.

He said the coun­cil was try­ing to mar­ket Ash­ford to po­ten­tial de­vel­op­ers and busi­ness with bonuses such as its close­ness to Lon­don and the Con­ti­nent.

The au­thor­ity is also pro­mot­ing the area’s be­low-av­er­age of­fice rents.

Ring road

Cllr Clokie cited achieve­ments reached in the last year such as the re­de­vel­op­ment of the ring road and Bank Street and the cre­ation of El­wick Square.

The ex­tended County Square shop­ping cen­tre opened in March and Cllr Clokie said: “It is trad­ing rea­son­able well, given the cur­rent cir­cum­stances.”

Other de­vel­op­ments Cllr Clokie cited were the Depart­ment for En­vi­ron­ment’s agree­ment to meet two-thirds of the cost of pro­vid­ing a new Junc­tion 10a on the M20.

He also re­minded coun­cil- lors that the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment in De­cem­ber gave £23 mil­lion in grant area fund­ing for 2008-11.

Mr Alder­ton said that in 2007/ 08, 1,200 new jobs were cre­ated in Ash­ford.

Among the ma­jor com­pa­nies Ash­ford has at­tracted is the Hi­tachi Rail Group, which has a train main­te­nance cen­tre in the bor­ough.

Richard Alder­ton who is con­fi­dent that Ash­ford is well placed to come out of the credit crunch

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