Editor’s concerns for the ‘old’ town
THIS week’s Express Cuttings looks back at a piece published in the Ashford Advertiser, a forerunner to the Ashford Extra, on September 12, 1974, and illustrates the optimism expressed by Ashford Advertiser founder and editor Rod Craig surrounding the future of Ashford. Mr Craig, who founded the popular weekly paper in 1967, had just been appointed chairman of Ashford Chamber of Trade, when he wrote about the town in his own newspaper. He spoke of some of the problems in the town during that time, and felt that the size of individual stores in what he called ‘a small agricultural and railway town’ and the ‘unsophisticated’ shopping needs did not accommodate the sudden expansion of the town’s population. He spoke also of the misgivings felt by local businesses with regards the Hempsted Street development, which was nearing completion, and opened the following year as the Tufton Centre. Mr Craig held grave concerns about the ‘old’ town, in particular the Lower High Street upon the opening of the new development.
On a positive note, he felt the expansion of existing businesses and the introduction of many new chains to the town, would rectify the old complaint that locals would have to travel to the Medway Towns and London for greater variety. There were various subjects on the agenda for the newly appointed chairman, including car parking and a rating relief for businesses. There had been a suggestion at the time that rates should be abolished, but as all businessmen and women know today, their wish wasn’t granted. Mr Craig also praised the work of the Chamber, saying that it was thanks to them and their members that the carnival was in existence, and they do more for the town than they do for their members – but they were all members so maybe that was not such a bad thing. Many will remember the existence of the Ashford Advertiser, whose offices were located in many different places around the town including Gasworks Lane and Wolseley Road. The newspaper became part of the KM Group around 1982 and was replaced by the ever popular Ashford Extra.