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News


downsmail.co.uk


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 maidstone.gov.uk/EDS.


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