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Ashford Council lines up light-industrial estate as latest addition to property portfolio

PUBLISHED: 10:43 15 September 2017

Ashford council

Ashford council

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The local authority has had to find other ways to generate income in the face of slashed government funding

A 28-unit light-industrial estate has been lined up by Ashford Borough Council as the latest addition to its corporate property portfolio.

The local authority has been innovative in the ways it has generated income in the face of slashed government funding, primarily through an asset acquisition strategy.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet this week, it was noted its acquisitions, including International House, Ellingham Industrial Estate, Stanhope shops and Wilko were generating significant returns on investments.

Following that success, and bosses are now targeting the estate at Carlton Road in Cobbs Wood, with the cabinet recommending it for approval at next month’s full council meeting.

In recent years the Ellingham estate has been over-subscribed, leading the council to expand it to 75 units, but there remains a waiting list for businesses wishing to rent space.

There is no scope to expand Ellingham any further but the council is keen to encourage and attract new businesses to develop and grow in Ashford.

The creation of additional industrial units in the borough is a viable option and so the council has held initial discussions with the Gallagher Group about the possibility of purchasing the Carlton Road site upon completion.

Subject to planning consent, the site would be constructed on the old Rimmel site, which has been derelict for almost 10 years.

Each unit would range in size from approximately 750 sq ft up to 3,500 sq ft.

The larger units would be ideal for businesses at Ellingham looking to expand, potentially paving the way for other small and medium-sized enterprises to take on the vacated units at Ellingham.

It is also likely that the site would support the creation of up to 100 jobs, in line with the council’s commitment to deliver economic investment and jobs growth, as well as improving the local amenity of the area.

Portfolio holder for corporate property, Graham Galpin, said: “The lack of availability of industrial property to developing businesses in the whole of Kent is seen by many as a weakness in the county.

“This report highlights the need for this type of property in Ashford where we have a waiting list for units to become available in Ellingham Way Industrial Estate, which is owned and managed by the council.

“By purchasing and managing the properties proposed at Carlton Road there will be additional opportunities for businesses to invest and grow.

“There is a limited likelihood of unlet units, given historic demand so a reasonable return on investment can be expected. This will continue our efforts to replace government funding.

“However, the emphasis on this project is to continue to support business growth, which is a guarantee for the future of our borough.”

Portfolio holder for finance, Neil Shorter, said: “I am pleased that cabinet has recommended that the council seeks to negotiate a deal to acquire the Carlton Road site.

“Not only does it send out a strong message that we want to continue our enterprising approach and support businesses of all sizes to thrive in this borough, but it brings back into use a site that has needed a purpose for ten years.

“Furthermore, with the proposed return on investment, in addition to the strong results already seen over a long period at Ellingham Industrial Estate, this would be another shrewd acquisition bringing financial reward and enabling us to deliver great value services to everyone in the borough.

“Acquisitions are just one aspect of our entrepreneurial activities that are securing a better future for all of our residents.”

Nick Yandle, chief executive of Gallagher Group, added: “It is good to see that councils are starting to play a more active role in stimulating business.

“In recent years the lack of new commercial development has meant the delivery of jobs has fallen way behind the growth in housing numbers.

“The decision also makes sense when you hear councils need to create long-term value and alternative sources of revenue to support and protect important public services.

“Our market research shows there is strong demand for units such as the ones proposed at Carlton Business Park and we hope to get the development under way in the next few weeks.

“In our experience, Ashford Borough Council is the most progressive with this kind of investment and we are aware of others who are actively considering a similar strategy.”

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