Our Man in Westminster
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.