Ashford Borough Council is to fund construction of a town centre leisure complex including a cinema, hotel and restaurant / retail units. Councillors have agreed to fund the construction of the long-awaited Elwick Place development. The council acquired the site at Elwick Place last year and will own the development once completed.
Developer Stanhope PLC was given planning consent for the £75 million scheme in December 2015. It will transform a vacant brownfield site in the heart of Ashford town centre into a boutique cinema, family hotel and restaurants and cafes. The 6.42 acre site was originally part of the location of the town’s cattle market and will deliver new leisure facilities to transform the night-time economy.
This development is likely to generate around 250 jobs and includes:
- A six screen, 897 seat cinema
- A 58 bed family hotel to support Ashford’s growing tourist economy
- Seven restaurant and bar spaces
- 282 new car parking spaces
- Attractive public space and landscapingThis would mean…
- The speedy delivery of another one of Ashford’s Big 8 priority projects, creating a vibrant town centre through an enterprising approach as outlined in the council’s Five-Year Corporate Plan to 2020.
- The council is demonstrating to residents, and existing and future businesses, the importance it places on bringing forward economic development in the town centre.
- The council wants to stimulate a stronger night-time economy within Ashford and provide additional regeneration and economic benefits within the borough.
- The scheme helps achieve the council’s long-term objective of self-reliance, using the income generated through rents and business rates to sustain and improve its services without the need for central government funding.
- The council can continue to deliver quality services and at the same time endeavour to retain the lowest council tax in Kent and among the lowest in the country.Local government has needed to adopt an alternative business model given that funding from central government has reduced by 40% in the last six years and Ashford Borough Council has placed a real focus on being enterprising, adopting a commercial approach and innovating to deliver its services. Big 8 projects, such as its acquisition of the International House office complex and Park Mall shopping centre, will reinvigorate the town centre.
Such approaches from other local authorities have been successful, with examples across the country of authorities that have purchased key assets to supplement income streams and stimulate growth.
The terms of the proposed transaction with Stanhope are commercially sensitive to both parties who must retain the ability to act in a commercial manner in negotiations and therefore detailed terms and figures are not subject to public disclosure at this stage.
A second phase of up to 200 apartments is expected to come forward later in 2016. The overall development represents an investment in the region of £75 million.
Leader of Ashford Borough Council, Cllr Gerry Clarkson, says: “This investment, and our continued commercial approach, has the potential to significantly contribute to our ability to be self-reliant despite reduced government funding. We firmly believe that enabling this regeneration project to be brought forward quickly is in the best interests of the borough. This investment will enable services to be maintained, and will also continue the revitalisation of Ashford town centre.
“This deal underlines the business-like approach being taken by the council, building on our successful purchases of International House and Park Mall. Our number one priority is to deliver investment and jobs through an enterprising approach and this epitomises what Ashford and modern-day local government is about. Having a solid economic base enables us to continue to support our very important wider rural economy set in and around our delightful villages, and in our rural town of Tenterden.
“Taking this bold decision underlines the importance of the town centre to the council and shows residents, existing businesses and those considering Ashford as a location for their business, that Ashford is a place of positive action with a can-do authority that continues to place its faith in a revived and reinvigorated town centre both during office hours and into the evening. These really are exciting times for Ashford.”
For more information about economic development in Ashford visit www.ashfordfor.com