Kentish Express Ashford & District

Town turn­around ‘thanks to of­fi­cer’

- By Ai­dan Bar­low Ashford · Damian Green

A coun­cil of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for turn­ing around the for­tunes of the town cen­tre has been praised for her “en­thu­si­asm and drive” as she leaves her role for pas­tures new.

Jo Wynn-Carter will be leav­ing Ashford Bor­ough Coun­cil at the end of the month af­ter work­ing as the re­gen­er­a­tion man­ager in the town cen­tre since April 2013.

When she ar­rived the town cen­tre was still strug­gling, with im­por­tant re­tail spa­ces un­oc­cu­pied and a va­cancy rate at 18.9%. But the rate is now just 7.9%, and 58% of shops are run by in­de­pen­dents.

Her work in­cluded the cre­ation of the Love Ashford web­site and so­cial me­dia pages, dubbed the coun­try’s first “dig­i­tal high street”, which was praised by Mary Por­tas her­self.

She has also been re­spon­si­ble for or­gan­is­ing events such as Christ­mas fam­ily fun days and farm­ers’ mar­kets to boost foot­fall.

The coun­cil took over the Park Mall shop­ping cen­tre in June 2015, when a third of the spa­ces were empty. But now most of the shops are full and foot­fall is up by 7%.

She said: “I’ve loved my time in Ashford and it has been a plea­sure and priv­i­lege to lead projects through such a rapid trans­for­ma­tion on the high street.

“I think that we have gone from be­ing a Por­tas Pi­lot town with much un­tapped prom­ise to hav­ing a town cen­tre with a qual­ity re­tail of­fer.

“The en­gage­ment we see through the Love Ashford shows that peo­ple still care pas­sion­ately about their high street, and the sta­tis­tics show that they vote with their feet when the of­fer is right.”

Her ef­forts have been praised by Ashford MP Damian Green, who said: “Ever since I first met Jo I could see her en­thu­si­asm and drive.

“Ashford is a grow­ing, pros­per­ous, well-run town and it is clear that Jo’s in­flu­ence has been in­stru­men­tal through­out.”

ABC Cab­i­net port­fo­lio holder Cllr Gra­ham Galpin added: “Jo has led us ca­pa­bly to where we are now, with a strong, in­de­pen­dent-led of­fer.

“She has worked tire­lessly, with great pro­fes­sion­al­ism, and the town cen­tre is im­mea­sur­ably bet­ter than it has been for many, many years.”

 ??  ?? LEAV­ING: Jo Wynn-Carter
LEAV­ING: Jo Wynn-Carter

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