Our Man in West­min­ster

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View - By Damian Green

There has been a great deal of con­cen­tra­tion re­cently on the large num­ber of big projects com­ing to a head in Ash­ford over the next few years. Th­ese will pro­vide a big eco­nomic stim­u­lus to the town, as well as im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for thou­sands of res­i­dents.

But for lo­cal busi­nesses the ques­tion is how th­ese very wel­come de­vel­op­ments will mesh with the signs of a gen­eral slow­ing in eco­nomic growth.

Both the Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer and the Bank of Eng­land have warned about slower growth, so what are the big con­cerns af­fect­ing Ash­ford busi­nesses?

At one of my reg­u­lar meet­ings with the Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce there were a num­ber of re­sponses, some of them more pre­dictable than oth­ers.

As ever the prospects for solv­ing Op­er­a­tion Stack pro­voked a long and pas­sion­ate dis­cus­sion, which it­self led to an equally strong set of ex­changes about the Dart­ford Cross­ing and the pro­pos­als for a new Lower Thames Cross­ing near Gravesend.

There was also much in­ter­est in the peren­nial prob­lem of broad­band, par­tic­u­larly for busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in ru­ral ar­eas. This is a grow­ing prob­lem and in Par­lia­ment I have joined the Bri­tish In­fra­struc­ture Group which is try­ing to put pres­sure on BT to im­prove ser­vices or lose its con­trol over Open­reach, which pro­vides ser­vices to the home.

One of the new prob­lems which came up was the need for of­fice space. This in gen­eral terms has been a prob­lem well recog­nised for a num­ber of years and new of­fices will be ap­pear­ing in the com­ing years in the town cen­tre’s Com­mer­cial Quar­ter.

How­ever this was a spe­cific point, that there is am­ple space for new busi­nesses, but less for those mov­ing on to the next stage of de­vel­op­ment.

As ever th­ese are ex­tremely use­ful points to pick up, as we work on the next phase of im­prov­ing the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment around Ash­ford.

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