Coun­cil Talk

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Cash-strapped Commuters - By Gerry Clark­son, leader of Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil

It is quite right that we must pro­tect our bor­ough from se­ri­ous over devel­op­ment and our towns from de­cline. Our town cen­tres as we know them are chang­ing and we must help that tran­si­tion, but it is not easy.

Out-of-town su­per­stores and the in­ter­net of­fer con­ve­nience for many, and while we do pro­vide as much re­duc­tion to busi­ness rates as the law al­lows, we do not set them or the rents be­ing charged to lo­cal busi­nesses.

With change comes op­por­tu­nity, and I am ab­so­lutely de­ter­mined to en­sure that both our ur­ban town of Ash­ford and our de­light­ful ru­ral town of Ten­ter­den grasp this and con­tinue to evolve into vi­brant places that peo­ple want to visit. This change will not hap­pen overnight but I am pleased to see the pos­i­tive re­ac­tion to some of the ini­tia­tives we have in­tro­duced.

The Town Cen­tre Ac­tion Team con­tin­ues to do a very good job tidy­ing and bright­en­ing up the high street, while the farm­ers’ mar­ket is prov­ing pop­u­lar – boost­ing foot­fall and sup­port­ing lo­cal traders.

We also in­creased the plant­ing of sum­mer flow­ers to brighten up the town cen­tre and will be dis­cussing with Kent County Coun­cil how we might greatly im­prove other open spa­ces, verges and round­abouts across the bor­ough.

Ash­ford is lead­ing the way in de­liv­er­ing much needed af­ford­able hous­ing, and we were pleased to be able to con­vince the hous­ing min­is­ter Bran­don Lewis to give us the green light that al­lows Ash­ford to pro­vide fur­ther new af­ford­able homes.

The new homes will be of sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit to com­mu­ni­ties in Ash­ford, and this comes on top of the 390 homes al­ready com­pleted in the bor­ough, through the gov­ern­ment’s Af­ford­able Homes Pro­gramme.

While we recog­nise the need for more hous­ing, we are op­posed to al­low­ing devel­op­ment with no checks or bal­ances that could mean an ad­verse ef­fect on the com­mu­ni­ties we are seek­ing to serve.

We are there­fore in di­a­logue with the gov­ern­ment and hope to con­vince them of the value of qual­ity and space stan­dards that can pro­tect future gen­er­a­tions and re­in­force so­cial co­he­sion.

From May 1, 2015, pas­sen­gers will be able to travel by Eurostar di­rect from Ash­ford to Lyon, Avi­gnon and Mar­seille up to five times a week. This means Ash­ford will boast di­rect ser­vices to France’s three largest cities – Paris, Mar­seille and Lyon – as well as Lille.

Ex­pan­sion of ser­vices will pro­vide greater op­por­tu­ni­ties for leisure and busi­ness trav­ellers, boost lo­cal tourism and leisure in­dus­tries, and make Ash­ford even more at­trac­tive as a busi­ness lo­ca­tion for com­pa­nies trad­ing with France and Europe.

Hope­fully, this will boost our town cen­tre’s for­tunes, too.

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