£100m invested in leisure & tourism

Posted on 17 July 2017

Investments totalling around £100m are planned for the leisure sector in Ashford, complementing infrastructure investments that make it one of the most dynamic and aspirational locations in the South East.

Developments worth £519m are already underway or planned for the Kent market town and surrounding areas. Business confidence is such that shop vacancy rates in the town centre are the lowest since records began and footfall is showing healthy growth.

A varied and high quality leisure offering is needed for the benefit of residents and visitors to this rapidly-expanding town, and here is a flavour of what’s new:

Elwick Place will see a new leisure hub in the heart of Ashford town centre, with a six screen, 897-seat Picturehouse boutique cinema, eight new restaurants and a 58-bed Travelodge hotel all forming a part of the £75m project. Work started this summer. www.elwickplace.com

Local entrepreneurs Steve and Lisa Wootton invested £1.8m to transform a former packaging factory into an exciting Flip Out Ashford trampolining and family entertainment centre. It opened in July 2017, creating around 60 jobs. www.flipout.co.uk/ashford

A new IMAX theatre and three cinema screens are to be installed at Cineworld’s Eureka Leisure Park, as part of its major commitment to Ashford. The leading cinema group is also responsible for the new boutique cinema at Elwick Place. www.cineworld.co.uk/cinemas/ashford AMF Bowling is carrying out a £300,000 refurbishment on Ashford’s town centre bowling alley, rebranding it into a Hollywood Bowl attraction. New features include Hollywood-themed VIP lanes, pool tables, and American-style bar facilities. www.amf-bowling.co.uk/our-centres/ashford

“There are a number of exciting recent developments, and more on the horizon, that will build on this success and put Ashford on the map as a growing leisure and tourist destination.”

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council

The Ashford International Model Railway Education Centre (Aimrec) has planning permission for a centre which will make Ashford “the model railway capital of the UK.” Fundraising for the ambitious £6m project is underway, boosted by support from VIP model railway fans such as Roger Daltrey, Jools Holland and Pete Waterman. The centre is expected to attract up to 500,000 visitors a year. www.aimrec.co.uk

Chapel Down’s fast-growing beer and cider business, Curious Drinks, is to be the focus of a new 1.6 acre brewery and visitor centre near Ashford International station following a £1.7m fundraising effort from nearly 900 supporters. Work is due to start later this year. www.chapeldown.com/beer/brewery

Pressure Point Escape Rooms widened the range of leisure activities in Ashford when it opened in May. Escape 60, a similar team game arena, is also expected to open in the coming months. www.pressurepointescaperooms.co.uk

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said:

“A growing town needs new and expanding leisure facilities and Ashford is certainly ahead of the curve in the national trend towards making leisure a huge part of the town centre offer. Our thriving visitor economy and the value of tourism in the borough cannot be underestimated. Ashford accounts for thousands of jobs and contributes significantly to Kent’s economy.

“The Council has been working hard to promote the borough as a place to live, work and invest and we have seen major investment into Ashford as a result. There are a number of exciting recent developments, and more on the horizon, that will build on this success and put Ashford on the map as a growing leisure and tourist destination.”