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Ed­i­tor Robert Bar­man 01233 623232 rbar­man@thek­m­group.co.uk News ed­i­tor Alas­tair Irvine 01233 623232 airvine@the km­group.co.uk Sport ex­presss­port@thek­m­group.co.uk Text: Text EX­PRESS fol­lowed by your mes­sage to 87474. Please in­clude your name and post­code. Mes­sages must not be more than 160 char­ac­ters and will be charged only at your stan­dard net­work rate. Please visit ken­ton­line.co.uk/terms for tex­ting terms. Ad­ver­tis­ing Tel 01233 623232 Fax 01233 626545 Ad­ver­tise­ment man­ager Jo Pearce, 01233 895819, jpearce@thek­m­group.co.uk Clas­si­fied ad­ver­tis­ing Tel 01233 623232. News­pa­per sales (in­clud­ing de­liv­ery, dis­tri­bu­tion, com­pe­ti­tions, reader of­fers and sub­scrip­tions): Of­fice hours, an­swer­phone there­after: 0800 525450 Head of­fice: Med­way House, Gins­bury Close, Thomas Lon­g­ley Road, Med­way, City Es­tate, Strood, Rochester ME2 4DU. Tel 01622 717880, Fax 01622 710937. Com­plaints: Any com­plaint about any as­pect of this news­pa­per should be made to the ed­i­tor, Robert Bar­man, 01233 623232 rbar­man@thek­m­group.co.uk Cus­tomer Ser­vices (for ad­ver­tis­ing queries): email cus­tom­erser­vices@ thek­m­group.co.uk 0800 0855810

Vir­gin Me­dia has an­nounced that homes and busi­nesses in Kent, and specif­i­cally Ash­ford, will be next to ben­e­fit from an ul­tra-fast broad­band and en­ter­tain­ment boost. As part of its Project Light­ning ex­pan­sion, Vir­gin Me­dia plans to ex­tend its fi­bre-op­tic net­work with en­try-level down­load speeds of 100Mbps, reach­ing up to 300Mbps for res­i­dents and 350Mbps for small busi­nesses.

Work has al­ready be­gun in Ash­ford to con­nect up to 8,000 premises, and is ex­pected to be com­pleted across the county be­fore the end of 2018.

The coun­cil un­der­stands the sig­nif­i­cance of this type of high-speed broad­band in­vest­ment, and Ash­ford has been at the fore­front of push­ing the fi­bre agenda. Our re­vised Lo­cal Plan in­cludes an in­no­va­tive Fi­bre to the Premises pol­icy.

Be­fore I write the next col­umn, we will have had the re­sults of the Kent County Coun­cil elec­tions. We will how­ever, still be in the mid­dle of the cut and thrust in the run-up to the gen­eral elec­tion called for June 8. It is our coun­cil staff who, in ad­di­tion to their day jobs, will have to set up the vote count­ing ar­range­ments prior to an­nounc­ing the re­sults.

In Ash­ford, we are also hav­ing to hold not one but two by-elec­tions for va­can­cies that now ex­ist in Vic­to­ria and Bock­hanger wards.

Award wins, multi-mil­lion pound in­vest­ment, job cre­ation and ser­vice in­no­va­tions are the hall­marks of busi­nesses thriv­ing.

In Ash­ford this was recog­nised by the bor­ough be­ing again voted the best place in Kent to do busi­ness in a poll by the in­vest­ment and busi­ness re­lo­ca­tion agency Lo­cate in Kent.

Ash­ford-based firms RIFT Group and Break­through Fund­ing were tri­umphant in the Kent In­victa Cham­ber of Com­merce an­nual busi­ness awards ear­lier this month. Break­through Fund­ing won the most promis­ing new busi­ness ac­co­lade, and RIFT scooped the ex­cel­lence in cus­tomer ser­vice prize .

Pi­o­neer­ing work is be­ing car­ried out by Ash­ford-based med­i­cal de­vice man­u­fac­turer In­te­grated Tech­nolo­gies Ltd (ITL). It is work­ing in a con­sor­tium of 20 com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing technology giants Phillips and Siemens, to cre­ate prod­ucts to im­prove cancer treat­ment. ITL hopes to de­velop an im­proved cancer-imag­ing de­vice to iden­tify the size of tu­mours.

Com­bin­ing busi­ness with plea­sure are Ash­ford en­trepreneurs Steve and Lisa Woot­ton, who are in­vest­ing £1.5 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ing one of the big­gest trampoline are­nas in the South East. Flip Out is due to open in Ash­ford at Hen­wood this spring, and the Woot­tons are re­cruit­ing up to 60 staff to run this fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre.

Ash­ford is widely recog­nised as the most busi­ness-friendly lo­ca­tion in the county, so it’s no sur­prise to see so many lo­cal em­ploy­ers con­tin­u­ing to thrive and pros­per here.

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