Coun­cil Talk

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Points Of View - By Gerry Clark­son, leader of Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil

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.

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