Friday, 10 July 2015

Maidstone finally recognises its locational advantages

It looks like Maidstone has finally realised it needs to adopt a new approach to economic development if it is to attract investment and jobs, and support existing local businesses. 

Maidstone council’s Policy and Resources Committee has finally adopted a new economic development strategy, which sets out the building blocks to deliver growth and prosperity for the borough’s residents and businesses.

With its M20 junctions – 5, 6, 7, 8 – Maidstone surely has a great hand to play in the development stakes. However, until now it has chosen largely to ignore its strengths and commercial appeal, with Ashford the major beneficiary.

The significant change of political heart follows extensive consultation on the draft strategy, including correspondence with 1,900 business in the borough and consultation events with businesses, parish and community groups. A telephone survey of more than 1,500 Maidstone residents was used to gain a representative sample of opinions. 

The strategy, which is one of a number of documents that will guide development over the next 15 years, identifies broad locations for economic development – such as Junction 8 of the M20 – but it does not allocate specific sites, which will be done in the local plan.

The council’s vision for Maidstone borough is to create a “model 21st century county town, a distinctive place, known for its blend of sustainable rural communities and urban living, dynamic service sector-based economy, excellence in public services, and above all, quality of life”.

Maidstone residents were generally in agreement with the new strategic priorities with more than half of those surveyed supporting the idea of new employment in a broad location around Junction 8 of the M20. 

To those who work with the many businesses looking to stimulate the Maidstone economy, news of the strategy has to be welcomed. 

However, for some, businesses like ADL of Marden who were looking to relocate to Waterside Park at Junction 8, this change of mind comes a little late for both the firm and its hundred plus distribution workers – whose jobs are relocating to the Midlands.

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