Kent Property Market Report 2023
The Kent Property Market Report provides an invaluable insight and analysis of the performance of the area’s property by sector and the key projects supporting the county’s growth and economic development.
The 2023 issue provides updates on the expansion of Ashford College, the Local Plan Review and Nutrient Neutrality, plus housing development updates including Kent Wool Growers, The Triangle and Henwood.
Local Plan Review
Ashford Borough Council has begun the process for reviewing its current Local Plan which was adopted in 2019. The new Local Plan will need to take account of changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) but will also seek to support further commercial and employment developments on allocated sites.
The council issued a Call for Sites in September 2023, to identify areas which could be considered for residential and commercial development as part of the new Plan.
While this review is in its early stages, additional work will be taking place over the coming years with a view to submit a new Local Plan to the Secretary of State in 2025-26.
Ashford College expansion
The extension of Ashford College is complete having started in 2022 following the takeover of the college by the EKC Group in 2020 and their successful bid for funding from the Government’s Post-16 Capacity Fund, and previous funding provided by Ashford Borough Council.
Known as Phase 2, the new wing houses classrooms and laboratories for Business, Information Technology, and Engineering. The new facilities will allow 250 more students each year to access high quality education at Ashford College.
The scheme includes an Engineering Hub, which will highlight the role engineering can play in creating solutions to climate change and promoting decarbonisation.
The extension is key in delivering the new T Level qualifications, which are equivalent to three A Levels and provide learners with work experience as part of their training.
Ashford International Studios – Newtown Works
Plans are underway to deliver an exciting film studios-led £250m investment and regeneration project on the former Newtown Railway Works site in Ashford.
This mixed-use development seeks to deliver TV and film studios with associated production spaces, a dedicated film school, residential units, commercial space and a hotel.
Much of the enabling work has been achieved over the past year since the successful bid by Ashford Borough Council for £14.7m in Levelling Up Funding.
The planning application for a revolutionary new factory continues to proceed through the process. It is envisaged this would deliver a £100m investment for the area and potential for up to 4,000 jobs for the Kent economy.
The UK’s largest bicycle manufacturer announced in 2022 that it had chosen Ashford as the company’s global HQ, following a national search with a pledge to work with universities and colleges to build local skills.
The planning application is due to be considered in 2024. This will provide an opportunity to expand advanced manufacturing in the area, as well as changing the culture around cycling for the local community.
Ashford Borough Council continues to respond to the various issues that have arisen from the need for new housing and other developments to achieve nutrient neutrality, due to the deterioration of Stodmarsh Lakes.
Since Natural England issued their advice in July 2020, planning applications for up to 10,000 new homes located within the River Stour catchment and/or which discharge foul water into the catchment have not been able to progress, unless they can achieve nutrient neutrality.
The council has been working on ways, including lobbying Government, to unlock the situation and deliver long term solutions to the issue.
Town Centre Reset
High streets up and down the country are facing many challenges with the after-effects of the Covid pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, ongoing financial uncertainly, and the growing competition of online shopping. The council understands the challenges that our town centre residents, businesses, users and community groups face.
Town centres are facing considerable changes over a short period of time, being influenced by wider economic, environment and social changes. It is vital that we continue to invest in carefully thought-through ideas and solutions to help bring about significant change, for the benefit of all.
The Town Centre Reset – including the revitalisation of our High Street is a key priority in our Corporate Plan 2022-24. It identifies a number of areas that require improvement and intervention, and these areas have had to be prioritised to focus available resources over the next few years.
Projects within the Town Centre Reset Action Plan include the delivery of Ashford UnFramed, a street art trail which took shape in the town centre in the spring, with many blank walls and building surfaces being transformed into high quality mural paintings.
Artists included the world renowned and local resident Mr Doodle, the celebrated Alex Chinneck and Charley Peters as well as Ashford Snowdog artist Danielle Williamson and students from Ashford College.
In order to address the issue of vacant shops in the town centre, Ashford Borough Council launched a Town Centre Business Grant scheme in October 2023. The grants will provide up to £10,000 for successful businesses or landlords to fit out and make improvements to empty premises in Ashford town centre which will lead to vacant units being filled and activated.
Waterbrook Phase 2
Waterbrook Park is 130 acre mixed commercial / residential land holding close to Junction 10/10A of the M20 at Ashford. With Phase 1 having been complete and seeing the delivery of 16 new industrial units alongside the International Truck Stop and new Jaguar Land Rover centre, Phase 2 has become available again on the market.
The Phase 2 site totals 17.5 acres and benefits from all mains services and is accessed via a new estate road. The site had received planning consent for the construction of 120,000 SqFt distribution unit which was not implemented.
It is primed ready for development with outline planning consent for B1, B2, B8 development with options available to provide units from 35,000 SqFt to 290,000 SqFt. Waterbrook Phase 2 is being marketed by Knight Frank Sibley Pares.
Kent Wool Growers
The former Kent Wool Growers site occupying a key location between the town centre and the railway station is set to be given a new lease of life after being bought by the council’s Housing development team. The 1.2ha site offers an unrivalled opportunity to create a vibrant community at the gateway to the town. Work is underway to shape a proposal that is likely to include mixed-use homes, commercial space, a community hub and substantial areas of green space.
Bordered by the Great Stour river to the east, the site is part of the Commercial Quarter, which includes the Connect 38 office building, International House and The Coachworks. Historically known as the Tanyard, it had been used as a tannery as far back as the 17th Century. The site includes the remains of the Grade II listed Whist House dating back to 1707.
The scheme could include a number of one, two and three bedroom apartments and four bedroom townhouses, parking bays concealed in undercrofts beneath gardens, a community and cultural hub and communal courtyards. Further design work is being carried out on the scheme before a public consultation is held in early 2024, ahead of a planning application expected later in the year.