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Council gets physical with its leisure facilities

More than £9 million goes into developing fitness in the borough

The Covid pandemic may have put leisure facilities on hold throughout the country, but the people in charge of developing leisure in Ashford Borough Council have seen it as an opportunity to further develop facilities in the area.

The Stour Centre revamp is making good progress while other facilities are also being improved as the council invests more than £9m in leisure across the borough.

The major refurbishment of the Stour, which will significantly improve the leisure offer for the community, is on target to open this summer.  
The council, in partnership with Freedom Leisure, who took over the running of the Stour last September, are investing £6.5m in it, transforming the facilities and providing new spaces to boost participation and improve the health and wellbeing of the borough’s residents.

In addition, a new fitness suite at the Julie Rose Stadium is planned while both reception areas and the catering offer will be improved with the introduction of Costa Coffee.

Cllr Matthew Forest, portfolio holder for culture, tourism and leisure at Ashford Borough Council, says: “The Stour Centre improvements are progressing well, and will open in the summer. We look forward to our residents being able to using them later this year.

“The council and Freedom Leisure are investing heavily in improving the facilities on offer, including an extended gym with new equipment, a new soft play and clip and climb and dedicated café area, upgraded reception, new leisure pool features targeted at younger children and major redecoration throughout including the dry and wet changing areas.

“As the borough continues to grow, we feel passionately that our leisure offer must evolve to meet demand and expectation and ensure Ashford remains active. This is even more important given the effects of the pandemic, which is why we are investing more than £9m toward improving them.”

Freedom Leisure is a not-for-profit leisure trust which manages leisure and cultural facilities on behalf of partners across the UK.

Ivan Horsfall Turner, Freedom Leisure managing director, says: “It’s great to see the investment into redeveloping The Stour Centre really starting to take shape. Being active is a key factor in maintaining our physical and mental health and wellbeing, and it can really help to strengthen the immune system which is so important right now.

“We look forward to the completion of the project and being able to reopen the centre which will provide a fantastic health, fitness and leisure experience for everyone in Ashford.” 

The Stour Centre is not the only leisure facility to benefit from investment.

Tenterden Leisure Centre, is also having some improvements, with a new roof and pool air handling unit planned for later this year. The council is working with Tenterden Leisure Centre Trust (the tenant of the leisure centre building and operator of the facilities) and Serco (the Trust’s agent running the leisure centre day-to-day) on the changes.

Meanwhile, a major new arts hub for the county, providing a long-term base for internationally renowned dance company Jasmin Vardimon will open next spring.

Work on building the Jasmin Vardimon Creative Laboratory and 29 light industrial units in Javelin Way started in January with funding from Kent County Council, the Arts Council and Ashford Borough Council.

The new building will include space for the creation of the company’s touring productions, rehearsals, training, educational and community classes, plus incubator space for small creative businesses.

Construction on new facilities at Waterside Sports and Children’s Centre is also underway. The new building will be leased to Bromley Green FC, who operate out of the site.

When finished, it will include a lobby area, four football changing rooms, an officials’ changing room, a fully accessible changing room and accessible toilet. There will also be a social area including a kitchen.

The work is being done by local Ashford company Lancaster Building and is due to be finished for this summer.

Computer-generated ideas of the new Stour Centre reception area (above) will look and a view of the pool area. Both images: ABC/Freedom Leisure.

Funding breakdown

Stour Centre: £6.5m; Julie Rose Stadium: £1m; Tenterden Leisure Centre: £890,000; Jasmin Vardimon Dance Academy: £750,000 from the Business Rates Retention Pilot. Funding for Waterside project is coming from the Premier League, The FA and Government’s Football Foundation – £600,000; £100,000 from Ashford Borough Council and Bromley Green FC who have raised £25,000.


David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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