Ashford paves way for ambitious Regional Business Hub

Proposals for a dynamic new South East business hub in the heart of Ashford town centre have moved a step closer after receiving council backing.

Planning permission from Ashford Borough Council paves the way for the first phase of the Commercial Quarter, delivering 80,500 sq ft of development to include office space with retail and restaurants on the ground floor together with car parking and landscaping. The council has also agreed the terms of the proposed land transaction.

The authority’s endorsement means the Commercial Quarter can now maximise the advantages of its prime location opposite Ashford International Station, stimulating major investment opportunities and creating several hundred jobs, 590,000 sq ft of office space and 150 homes.

The scheme is one of the council’s Big 8 projects and is expected to play a crucial role in the future economic development of the borough and regeneration of the town centre.

Kent developers Quinn Estates and George Wilson Holdings are already talking to a number of businesses keen to take space in the first new office building – including top creative agency Recursive Media, which recently relocated to Ashford from Brighton with the specific intention of moving into the Commercial Quarter when built.

The leading audio-visual, multi-media and acoustics company, whose clients include the Royal Society of Arts, Harrods, the 2012 Olympic Park and the Dubai Mall, is currently based in Ashford’s thriving Park Mall. CEO David Yates says: “Park Mall is a good creative space for the business. We employ a freelance workforce from all over the UK, so a base only 38 minutes from St Pancras is very attractive indeed.

“But what sealed the deal for us was the unwavering enthusiasm and warm welcome of the council and its ambition to develop a dynamic new business hub with a meaningful digi-tech and creative industry presence in the Commercial Quarter. We want to be part of that from the very beginning.”

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, says the authority’s decision to back the Commercial Quarter ‘makes a significant statement’ about its commitment to the regeneration of the town centre and demonstrates its confidence in the borough.

“The Commercial Quarter could act as a catalyst for delivery of jobs and opportunities befitting the international town of Ashford,” he adds. “This key strategic site has long been earmarked for development but it is only since the council acquired it and undertook its own master planning and marketing exercise that a proposal has come forward.”

Mark Quinn, Managing Director of Quinn Estates, says the project is ‘a transformational scheme for Ashford’ that will enable the town to attract significant inward investment and provide modern office space in a ‘sensational location’.

“The council has shown real ambition in driving forward a regeneration agenda that includes residential, leisure, community and commercial space,” he says.

The council announced last year that it had agreed to work with developers Quinn Estates and George Wilson Holdings. Work on the first phase of the new public realm around International House and Dover Place has already been completed.

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