The new multi-million-pound state-of-the-art Ashford College Campus now stands proudly in a prominent position on the corner of Elwick Road. The first students started their studies this week. This first-rate facility will educate and equip students with the necessary knowledge and employment skills needed in the future.
This exciting project will realise a long held ambition of the council for a high quality learning facility, right in the heart of the town centre. It is the first of the Big 8 major projects to be delivered and will play a key part in our future prosperity. Let us all rejoice in this milestone achievement. It is expected that the new college will increase skills levels and therefore lead to better employment opportunities for the residents of the borough whilst playing a pivotal role, alongside neighbouring development, in rejuvenating the town centre.
Ten years ago tomorrow (Friday, September 15, 2007), the Stour Centre opened following a huge redevelopment. The new centre has earned a reputation as a well-used and much enjoyed leisure facility for local residents and visitors alike.
Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of speaking at the autumn Visit Kent Networking Event held at Eastwell Manor, now a Champneys Spa Hotel, which is undergoing a major refurbishment.
This comes just two years after Ashford proudly hosted the National Tourism Society Symposium. This provided the opportunity to showcase Ashford on a national scale and to promote our leisure and tourism offer; our food, wine and hospitality businesses and our visitor attractions. The symposium has been a catalyst in raising the borough’s tourist destination profile and it was at that Symposium that we launched the wine trail in Tenterden, which is proving popular.
Ashford’s thriving visitor economy accounts for thousands of jobs and contributes significantly to the local economy. Visitor experiences include the wonderful Kent & East Sussex Railway, a range of beautiful gardens, golf courses, windmills and more historic listed buildings than any other borough in Kent. Leisure facilities across the borough include the Julie Rose international athletics stadium and the stunning familyorientated Conningbrook Lakes Country Park, which provides sailing, canoeing and other water sports opportunities as well as marvellous countryside walks. We also have the delightful rural town of Tenterden and are surrounded by a wide necklace of beautiful and picturesque villages ripe to explore. Finally, we face many other real challenges, with antisocial behaviour, litter and fly tipping as well as the inappropriate parking of HGV traffic. These matters are being tackled and I hope to say more in the future.