Hot & Happening

Hotel, cinema and leisure development almost fully let

Elwick Place bucks the downward retail trend and is ready to get going again

The flagship Elwick Place cinema, hotel and leisure development in the heart of Ashford town centre is almost fully let, with contracts signed for more units during the latest lockdown, landlord Ashford Borough Council has announced.  

The first phase of the 100,000 sq ft development was launched in December 2018, with a six-screen Picturehouse cinema and a 58-bedroom Travelodge hotel as its anchor tenants. The scheme – built on the site of a former cattle market in partnership with UK developer Stanhope PLC – also has a 282-space car park and is a stone’s throw from Ashford International station.

During later phases, efforts to attract restaurant and leisure businesses to fill the remaining eight units have continued against a backdrop of business uncertainty caused by Brexit, an accelerating decline in high street retail and the pandemic bombshell that has thrown the UK and its economy into turmoil. 

A number of businesses have opened at Elwick Place over the past two years, keen to invest in one of the most dynamic and fast-growing towns in the south-east.   

Last week the council announced that new tenants were now secured for all but one unit at the multi-million pound centre. Restaurant operators dominate, providing the people of Ashford with a wealth of new leisure choices just as we emerge from lockdown. And residents eagerly await details of what several other newly-signed tenants will be offering there.

In the last fortnight alone, three new restaurants have gone public. The Gastronomist (pictured) with its open-flamed parilla (grill), family-friendly Italian restaurant Unita 4, and Matches Sports Bar, Grill & Social – heralded as the ‘ultimate sports bar experience’ – are all eager to open their doors to customers once restrictions permit.

Other new tenants are expected to make their opening plans public in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile food hall and restaurant operator Macknade Fine Foods has recently expanded into an adjoining unit, after a successful first 18 months trading at Elwick Place. And Snap Fitness gym is counting down the days until it can reopen under the Government’s coronavirus roadmap.

The news that all but one of the units are let is remarkable when considering the unparalleled events of the past couple of years, including the collapse in the retail shopping market, the impact of Brexit and the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Paul McKenner, head of Corporate Property and Projects, says: “There’s no denying that it’s been a real challenge to fill the units due to these extraordinary events. But from the outset we remained confident that all the space would be filled in time and now, thanks to our team’s hard work and professionalism, we are delighted that Elwick Place is embarking on an exciting new future.

“We are the first to acknowledge it’s not quite gone to plan, but there’s now plenty to look forward to.

“All our investments, including Elwick Place, will secure long-term revenue streams for the council and taxpayers through rents and business rates so we can sustain and improve services for our residents and ensure Ashford continues to have the lowest council tax in the county.”

Ashford Borough Council has a large portfolio of corporate property assets which generate significant income, even though there has been an adverse impact caused by the pandemic. The portfolio includes Elwick Place, Park Mall shopping centre, International House and the Commercial Quarter, Carlton Road Business Park, Ellingham Road Industrial Estate and many others.

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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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