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SEEDA successfully boosted plans to create 31,000 homes and 28,000 jobs in Ashford, Kent, within the next 30 years by acquiring its first prime site in the town in April 2004.
The 1.2 hectare, brownfield site, which fronts onto Elwick Road (the main ring road through Ashford Town Centre) was bought freehold by SEEDA with funding from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) for regeneration. The agency also has an option to buy an adjacent 1.4 hectare site at a later date.
Significance to the region:
Both Elwick Road sites were originally purchased in the 1990s by London and Continental Railways, the company responsible for the building of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. However, the sites are no longer required and have been sold on to SEEDA.
SEEDA has also acquired the strategically placed International House office building in the centre of Ashford. This 11-storey office forms a key part of the wider regeneration programme for the town. Constructed in the 1970's it extends to some 8,000m² and is the base for some 20 companies employing in the region of 250 people. SEEDA is refurbishing a number of vacant floors in the short-term to attract new inward investment capitalising on the building's unrivalled accessibility to the existing Town Centre, main line and international rail services and motorway network. In the longer term, the building will form part of a comprehensive mixed use redevelopment which will include a number of adjoining sites.
Ashford has long been identified as the “Growth Town of Kent” and has been described in this way in various strategic documents for a number of decades. However it has only been recognised by Central Government since the publication of the Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9) in March 2001, when it was formally noted as one of four areas within the South East region where significant growth would be encouraged.
The publication of the Sustainable Communities Plan by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) underlined this and targeted Ashford for the development of 31,000 new homes and the creation of 28,000 new jobs by 2031.
Organisations including SEEDA, Kent County Council, English Partnerships, Ashford Borough Council, the Environment Agency, The Housing Corporation, the Government Office for the South East (GOSE) and a host of others have joined together to create Ashford's Delivery Board to put in place the targets set within the Sustainable Communities Plan.
The Ashford's Delivery Board has taken the approach that growth needs to come from the centre out, with improved links between the existing town centre and the International Passenger Station. Therefore the majority of attention is focused on Ashford Town Centre in the next two years.
SEEDA's site acquisition programme is ongoing and good progress is being made to secure a total of 11 hectares of brownfield land that will eventually facilitate the regeneration of the town centre in the short to medium term.
The Ashford's Future Delivery Board is now investigating potential uses for the Elwick Road sites through the town centre masterplanning process, including a mixed development of residential, commercial and leisure facilities.
SEEDA is also leading on creating an "Economic Vision" for Ashford that identifies how the town needs to develop in the future for it to be a sustainable community, with enough employment opportunities in the area to support the number of new homes that will be built. The vision will look at how small and medium businesses can develop and identify new initiatives that will bring jobs into the area.
Visit the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for further information - www.odpm.gov.uk