“If you have ever wished you’d invested somewhere that has regenerated, you will know that you are already too late.”
“Ashford is undergoing an epic transformation. A look around the town shows both skyline and fortunes are being changed and – perhaps most importantly – people’s perceptions of the town are changing. New businesses are arriving, landmark amenities and facilities are appearing and – excitingly – we have plenty of contemporary and exciting new housing developments under construction.”
Alex says he’s confident about the future of the town: “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.”
House price statistics appear to underline 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. Maidstone – with a longer train journey to London – would cost on average 16 per cent more at £314K.
But 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 through recent months.
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 stand out.
— Alex Davies, Managing Director Estate Agents
Alex predicts the figures suggest greater growth yet to come. “It’s an interesting time – whilst other areas are tailing off, it would seem Ashford is about to enjoy the biggest boom and expansion of its life.”
The seeds of change, of course, were sown over a decade ago with the inception of the high-speed train service to London (38 minutes) and the continent (Paris in under two hours). It’s been a bumpy ride at times since then with the recession and a faltering housing market, but Ashford Borough Council has held its nerve and kept true to its vision of turning a one-time modest market town into a burgeoning business hub and vibrant urban community. Over £2.5 billion is being invested into the town, transforming the infrastructure, housing, leisure and retail facilities.
The focus of investment is on ‘The Big 8’ which includes Connect 38, a new commercial quarter adjacent to Ashford’s International train station; the ‘nationally significant’ construction of junction 10a on the M20; lifestyle driven housing projects such as Chilmington Green – a ‘garden city’ style development; expansion of the McArthur Glen Outlet Village – already a major attraction in the town; an architecturally impressive Picture House cinema with accompanying restaurants and shops plus a newly opened international education facility, Ashford College, catering for 1,400 students.
Ashford Borough Council has overseen an impressive transformation of Ashford in recent years. I'm excited by the future opportunities this will deliver to the borough.
— Roger Lightfoot, Group CEO
For those looking for more grass root signs of change, yes, there are new coffee houses popping up along the high street and revitalising the medieval lanes in Ashford’s centre. Indicative of a younger, hipster vibe is The Nutmeg serving locally roasted Coldblow coffee. There is also Taproom TN23 – a microbrewery off-shoot from the Hop Stuff Brewery in Woolwich. Founder, James Yeomans, was looking to expand outside the Capital and recognised the huge potential in Ashford, particularly the thirst locally for something akin to a ‘London experience’. Just up the hill you will find Made Inn, a buzzing micro bar and live music/comedy venue. And, soon to join the party, is Chapel Down’s extraordinary steel-clad brewery where they will be producing their award-winning beer, Curious Brew, from March 2019. In a bold move, this statement building with its external aliens-have-landed brewing tanks, is bang in the heart of Ashford. With restaurant, bar, shop and tours as well as an innovative outdoor space, this will be a flagship attraction for the town. Ashford’s leisure-time economy is booming.
More about living in Ashford
Is it just a case of ‘build it and they will come’, or are things really transforming for Ashford? Some of the change is organic, judging by the multiplying coffee bars, pop-up shops and independent foodie haunts. The larger scale shift has been orchestrated in the main by Ashford Borough Council, recently lauded as an organisation ‘that means business.’ The council has a master plan in place to invest heavily in the infrastructure of the town with tangible end results: to attract new people to the area, increase visitors and footfall into the town itself and bring in fresh businesses.
In terms of housing that master plan is translating into thousands of new homes, all hopefully fulfilling the council’s belief in demanding ‘exceptional standards in both design and build.’ Lifestyle living and environment are certainly to the fore at Conningbrook Lakes where 300 two-, three- and four-bedroom houses are being built within an existing country park. The waterside properties are designed to be the ‘modern embodiment of a traditional Kent village’. As well as water sports and sailing club facilities, the community will be surrounded by nature reserves, country trails and cycle routes as well as having its own farm shop and café. The first phase of homes, featuring balconies and large windows to make the most of the water and countryside views, are newly on the market starting from £290K.
To the south of Ashford is Chilmington Green where a range of vernacular style houses will start to become available this summer. Designed using the best-practice principles of a garden city, there will be landscaped green spaces, large parklands, event facilities, cycleways, five new schools and its own high street.
There is a feeling of optimism in Ashford currently. 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.
Summing up, Alex believes 2019 onwards will see ample scope for growth within the housing market, with attractive opportunities for home buyers and investors alike. “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.”
Photos courtesy of Ashford Borough Council.