Ashford town centre praised by Communities Secretary

Posted on 9 May 2019

Ashford has been praised by the government as an example of a reviving high street with its increase in footfall.

Recent figures show that year to date, footfall across high streets in the South East is down 1.7% compared with the same period in 2018. Comparatively, Ashford town centre has seen an 18.9% rise in footfall in 2019, with 287,000 visitors in April.

Against the backdrop of a struggling high street, Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire has praised Ashford as an exception to this rule.

He said: “Councillors in Ashford saw a surge in shoppers in their town centre after they cut parking fees and put on popular public events to encourage people back to the high street.”

“Councillors in Ashford saw a surge in shoppers in their town centre after they cut parking fees and put on popular public events to encourage people back to the high street.”

James Brokenshire, Communities Secretary

In a recent report, BBC South East Today explored how the introduction of free parking after 3pm, town centre events and the launch of the LoveAshford website has made a difference to Ashford.

Made in Ashford, a collaborative shop of local designers and producers located in Park Mall, has seen sales increase by a quarter in the past year.

Kate Baker, Made in Ashford, shares her thoughts on the UK retail situation: “High streets will die if initiatives aren’t put in place. So free parking is brilliant, it’s obviously going to draw people in, I know it draws me in!”

With the recent closure of the town’s M&S store, Ashford is working hard to overcome the local implications of the wider UK retail problems.

Hannah Clayton-Peck, Town Centre Regeneration Manager, explains what Ashford Borough Council is doing to combat these issues: “This a national picture for retail. We will continue to help where we can. We will continue to do those things that have been successful and will innovate as we go along.”