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Plans to im­prove the safety and ap­pear­ance of the do­mes­tic rail­way sta­tion fore­court have been given the green light. The im­prove­ments will pro­vide a safer and more di­rect route for pedes­tri­ans to the Com­mer­cial Quar­ter, the new Ashford Col­lege and through to the town cen­tre. This will also re­duce ve­hi­cle con­ges­tion and im­prove the gen­eral flow of ve­hi­cles around the area.

A new pedes­trian cross­ing will be in­stalled be­tween the sta­tion and In­ter­na­tional House which will make cross­ing the road eas­ier and safer, while the re­lo­ca­tion of the taxi wait­ing fa­cil­i­ties to the Stour Cen­tre car park will pro­vide 17 wait­ing spa­ces in­stead of the cur­rent eight.

The two-bay taxi rank, with cov­ered shel­ter, will re­main near the front of the do­mes­tic side of the sta­tion. Peo­ple will con­tinue to be picked up from the same point as they are now. Th­ese vi­tal works will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the ap­pear­ance, safety, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and free flow of traf­fic around the sta­tion and should be com­pleted by the end of Septem­ber.

While the gov­ern­ment en­sures that we make pro­vi­sion for pri­vate-sec­tor hous­ing growth, over which we en­deav­our to ex­er­cise con­trol of de­vel­op­ment num­bers and sit­ing, there is still a lack of af­ford­able hous­ing. Ashford has re­cently ap­proved the pro­vi­sion of a fur­ther 190 af­ford­able homes to be built be­tween 2018 and 2024, on top of the 159 af­ford­able homes that are be­ing de­liv­ered in the 2015-2019 pe­riod.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016 Ashford was the first author­ity in the South East to be iden­ti­fied as be­ing Hous­ing Busi­ness Ready. Ashford has been awarded over £11 mil­lion of grant fund­ing for af­ford­able hous­ing since 2011.

The coun­cil has in­creased the pro­vi­sion of af­ford­able homes within its shel­tered hous­ing schemes. Far­row Court is a £17 mil­lion project that is truly de­men­ti­afriendly. Danemore in Ten­ter­den is be­ing up­graded, and will be de­men­tia-friendly.

Cab­i­net mem­bers con­sid­ered an an­nual re­port on the health of Ashford’s town cen­tre. The re­port showed how far Ashford has come since 2012, when it suc­cess­fully ap­plied to be part of the Por­tas Pilot, when the va­cancy rate was nearly 20%. It is now 8.8%, against a na­tional av­er­age of 9.5%.

There is a clear strat­egy in place and change is ev­i­dent. Of the £519 mil­lion in­vest­ment in projects across the bor­ough, it is es­ti­mated £360 mil­lion is be­ing in­vested in Ashford town cen­tre.

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