2019 is Ashford’s year

6th March 2019

With Ashford the focus of significant growth, rural and residential property experts predict the town is well placed to attract further investment in 2019, especially with it being only 38 minutes from London on Southeastern’s high-speed service.

Within the Hobbs Parker Group, based in Ashford, the planning and property team and estate agents all have longstanding local knowledge and their ears close to the ground.

Roger Lightfoot, Chief Executive of Hobbs Parker Group, said: “Ashford Borough Council has overseen an impressive transformation of the town in recent years. I’m excited by the future opportunities this will deliver to the borough.

“While it’s been a bumpy ride at times with the recession and faltering housing market, the council held its nerve and maintained its optimism for the town.”

Today more than £2.5 billion is being invested into transforming the infrastructure, housing, leisure and retail facilities to deliver a burgeoning business hub and vibrant urban community.

Jon Rimmer, Director of Hobbs Parker Property Consultants, said: “The focus of investment has been on the Council’s Big 8 projects, with many of them now coming to fruition, including the £90m McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Village expansion, which is due to complete by the end of the year.

“The next collection of investment projects is coming forward and will mark the start of another exciting chapter for Ashford and its on-going placemaking.”

The council-backed Big 8 includes Connect 38, designed by Canterbury-based architects and recently shortlisted for an RICS South East 2019 award, and part of the planned commercial quarter adjacent to Ashford International railway station.

In addition to the expansion of the Designer Outlet Village, there’s the cinema and restaurants at Elwick, plus Ashford College, which provides further education for 1,400 students.

Improving the town’s infrastructure will secure further investment and work is under way on the nationally-significant new junction 10a on the M20.

Jon Rimmer added: “The Big 8 have played an important part in fostering business confidence in the town, which has led to a number of other exciting projects, notably Chapel Down’s extraordinary steel-clad brewery where it will produce its award-winning beer, Curious Brew, from this Spring.

“Microbreweries, pop-up cafes and bars are adding to the buzz around the town and there’s a knock-on effect on the property market.”

With this buzz comes a greater interest in the town as a place to live: the Big 8 also includes major housing projects, such as Chilmington Green.

Alex Davies, Managing Director of Hobbs Parker Estate Agents said: “If you have ever wished you’d invested somewhere that has regenerated, you will know you are already too late.

“Ashford’s tipping point is here and is set to be one of the fastest growing towns – in economy and population – in Kent over the next five years.

“The town is undergoing an epic transformation. A look around quickly shows both skyline and optimism are on the up, and perhaps most importantly, people’s perceptions of the town are changing.

“New businesses have arrived, landmark amenities and facilities are appearing and, excitingly, we have plenty of contemporary and quality new housing developments under construction.”

House price statistics appear to back up this view. Over the past year, Ashford has outperformed most other sizeable towns in the county and grown at a faster rate than a number of more established commuter areas in the South East. Yet comparatively, house prices still offer good or even better value in and around the town.

Average sold prices in Ashford last year were £270k. In Sevenoaks, one of the more traditional hotspots, you’d expect to pay nearly two and a half times that amount, with homes costing on average £648k. In contrast, Maidstone, with a longer commute by train to London, would cost on average 16 per cent more at £314k.

However, is this extra ‘buying power’ likely to continue for Ashford? Some Kent towns seem to have reached a peak in terms of house price rises, levelling out in Whitstable and slowing down in towns such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells. It has been widely reported that house prices have also been stalling in London.

If we look back over the past five years, Ashford’s growth appears ‘middling’ at 18 per cent, but it’s the last 12 months – at six per cent growth – that really stands out.

Alex Davies added: “The figures suggest greater growth is yet to come.

“It’s an interesting time – while other areas are tailing off, it would seem Ashford is about to enjoy the biggest boom and expansion of its life.”

There is currently a feeling of optimism in Ashford.  The transformation – with its overarching emphasis on recreation and sustainability – is happening, real-time, for all to see. As such, there is genuine confidence that Ashford’s future is bright and secure.

Alex Davies concluded: “In terms of appealing places to live in the south east, a new player has arrived. Ashford offers a chance to jump into a prime regenerating town, with the best about to come.”

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