Ashford – Gateway to Europe and key to your investment dreams
Considered the ‘Gateway to Europe’, Ashford is the fastest growing city between London and the continent. That sounds like a big claim, but the truth of it becomes immediately evident when you have a look at how this scenic area of Kent has developed since the beginning of the 21st century.
The Office for National Statistics reports that from 1984-2009, Ashford was the fastest growing area in South East England, with a 29% increase in population. Ashford’s population is predicted to grow by a further 31% between 2008-2033. This is because Ashford has established itself as a terrific area for business. Approximately 5,000 businesses have workplaces in Ashford, employing around 51,000 people. There are 16 business parks in Ashford that accommodate a wide variety of businesses from light industrial to commercial and retail companies.
For city workers looking to for housing away from the hustle and bustle of London, trains from Ashton rail station travel to Kings Cross St Pancras in only 38 minutes, making Ashford an important link in London’s increasingly important commuter belt.
To top it off, house prices in Ashford are 28% lower than London and 14% lower than the average for the South East. These attractive property prices and excellent employment opportunities are drawing people to Ashford, which is creating exceptionally strong rental demand in the area. As the area is seeing such impressive growth, it seems that now is the time for investors to claim their piece of this vibrant and exciting city. That means Ashford property investment is right for you if you’re looking for a commuter belt property.
Economy & Employment
Ashford has been an important market town since around the 12th century. The town upholds its heritage of commercial significance with expansive business developments, buoyed by the Ashford International rail station and the High Speed 1 (HS1) trains that service it.
High Speed 1 cut travel time between Ashford and London down to 38 minutes, less than half of the prior journey time. This super fast link between London and the continent puts Ashford in a prime place to take advantage of businesses that need quick access to both markets. Councillor Gerry Clarkson, Leader of the Ashford Borough Council, has said that “HS1 is the most important economic boost to the South East in years and has strengthened Ashford’s reputation as the powerhouse economy of Kent.”
Ashford has been recognised by successive governments as a key area for development since the 1960s. In 2004 a £2.5bn development scheme was put in place with an aim to bring 31,000 homes and 28,000 jobs to the area. Commercial spaces have expanded significantly in Ashford in business parks such as Eureka Science and Business Park and Waterbrook Park. Currently, there are 345 acres of commercial development sites in Ashford with 2m sq ft of office development.
The arrival of High Speed 1 instantly made Ashford an important part of London’s commuter belt, as it cut journey times to the capital from 80-90 minutes to 38 minutes. Eurostar trains between London and Continental Europe stop at Ashford International station, directly connecting Ashford with Lille, Brussels and Paris, with connections to the rest of Europe from those stations.
For travelling by road, Ashford hosts 2 junctions for the M20, which connects drivers with the M25 and access to London and the greater UK road network. London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports are all within easy reach of Ashford.
Ashford has twelve primary schools, two grammar schools, two further secondary schools and a college.
Notable schools include:
- The Norton Knatchbull School, a grammar school with academy status for boys, with girls accepted in the Sixth Form. The school has a history dating back to 1630.
- Highworth Grammar School for Girls. First opened in 1908
Shops & Leisure
A five-minute walk from Ashford town-centre takes eager shoppers to the Ashford Designer Outlet, and award-winning shopping centre that houses stores for over 120 designer brands, as well as cafes and restaurants.
The Outlet attracts 3 million customers per year. Other shopping centres in Ashford have undergone major development in recent years. County Square, Ashford’s main shopping centre, was expanded to include 50,000 sq ft of new retail space, including a Debenhams store, in 2008. In 2009 a new Waitrose opened in Ashford, followed by a John Lewis store in 2013.
Sports and arts are also well catered for in Ashford. The Julie Rose Stadium opened in 1997 and part funded by National Lottery, hosts international athletics events. The historic St. Mary’s parish church includes art and performance venue that was improved in 2010 with £1.7m of funding. Acts to have played at the venue include Tim Burgess and Turin Brakes.