AS MAIDSTONE recovers from COVID-19 impacts, all political parties on the borough council warmly welcomed the emerging Economic Development Strategy which sees the town excelling as the Business Capital of Kent by 2030 and winemaking taking off. It says: “This is supported by a palpable spirit of enterprise evi- dent across the whole economy and a complementary mix of both urban and rural economic oppor- tunity that is genuinely unrivalled across Kent and the wider region.” Maidstone already has “a vi-

brant mix of industries including manufacturing, agriculture and tourism and an unrivalled portfo- lio of heritage and visitor assets” and there is significant potential for further growth and development. Special emphasis is put on the burgeoning wine industry. Maid- stone is the centre for some of the UK’s leading winemakers, with Richard Balfour-Lynn’s Hush Heath Winery, Staplehurst, an in- ternational prize winner. It forecasts the Garden of England becoming the Wine Garden of England.

Wine heart of business strategy Rejuvenation

Richard Balfour- Lynn, of

Hush Heath winery in Staplehurst

It sees vineyard experiences as a central pillar from which other businesses in tourism and leisure can benefit, strengthening the bor- ough as a tourist destination. Rural parts of Maidstone “face particular challenges and barriers to growth and prosperity, so our strategy focuses on enhanced in- frastructure provision and connec- tivity to unlock these opportunities and enable a thriving rural econ- omy”. Cllr Fay Gooch (Ind) said the strategy proudly flew the flag of

what Maidstone was all about; Cllr Martin Round (Con) explained how Maidstone’s centrality was so important to our economy; and Cllr Martin Cox (Lib Dem) said it reiterated the positivity of the bor- ough, now working much better with KCC as a partner. The document will support Maidstone’s application for Gov- ernment funds. The draft strategy will go out to

public consultation until July 7, re- porting back to the council for adoption in September.

of town centre THE strategy sees Maidstone town centre as “a vibrant, mixed- use destination with thriving day and night-time economies”. It has undergone unprece-

dented change in response to structural shifts in the wider retail, leisure and office markets, a pro- cess accelerated by COVID-19. It is unlikely pre-pandemic pat-

terns of activity will return, but its renaissance is “critical underpin- ning the updated strategy”. “The town centre is in need of

rejuvenation, future-orientated thinking and support to respond to evolving consumer habits. “Key sites such as Maidstone

East offer real potential to strengthen our position as the public sector capital of Kent through development of high- quality shared co-working space for KCC and Maidstone Council.” Go to

p22 22

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48