What happened to boom town hopes?
I’ve always tried to talk up Ashford when others knock the place, especially when I’ve experienced towns with far less history such as Milton Keynes, but really, what is happening to our town?
Just look at the number of consecutive boarded up shops at the bottom of Bank Street.
There are blanked out windows and boards all over the town centre now – the worst possible advert for visitors – a town centre in decline.
At one end you are welcomed by the Prince Albert, the British Volunteer and The Grill / Leaf Lounge (all shut) and at the other end you’ve got the ruins of Blockbusters and Pizza Hut (a small sign promises something soon, but what?). Now add in the fact that BHS is likely to go and the picture gets bleaker still.
Yet Ashford as a whole is not dying – it’s growing.
Unlike the slightly smaller settlements of Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells (which seem to have it all) our council have encouraged the new shops and restaurants to set up on the outskirts instead of promoting the centre.
It started with the market and it continues to this day. But will they ever take this on board? Or will they still tell us that the recession is over without the slightest shred of irony?
In the nineties we were promised a boom town with grandiose schemes like a chair-lift linking the outlet, station, town centre and cinema. Park and ride was mooted, Park Farm was going to have a rail halt and a railway museum was first postulated.
Will any of these ever happen or is Ashford forever going to be the town that talks the talk but can’t walk the walk? Let’s see what’s left in another 20 years time. Adam Colton Ashford