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Record of job-creation group East Kent Opportunities comes under attack from Kent County Council UKIP leader Roger Latchford

By Paul Francis
The Eurokent site off New Haine Road in Thanet
The Eurokent site off New Haine Road in Thanet

County council chiefs have defended the track record of a publicly-funded company set up to bring jobs and investment to Thanet.

But Kent County Council has admitted East Kent Opportunities - which was set up in 2007 to boost the regeneration of the 70-acre Eurokent site and the 40-acre Manston Business Park - is facing competition from the government's new Discovery Park at the former Pfizer site in Sandwich.

East Kent Opportunities' track record has been questioned by the opposition UKIP leader on KCC, Cllr Roger Latchford.

He claimed "not a single job" had been created since the limited company was set up.

Kent County Council cabinet member Mark Dance
Kent County Council cabinet member Mark Dance

That claim was flatly denied by Cllr Mark Dance (Con), KCC's cabinet member for regeneration.

He accepted EKO had faced difficulties but the prospects looked brighter.

"We have an enterprise zone at Discovery Park which has drawn businesses in because they get rate relief.

"Whenever you are within a catchment of a zone, questions are going to be asked. I think the timing was an issue - the joint venture was the right vehicle land values were quite high [when set up] but then we had the recession."

There were signs the sites are beginning to attract more interest from the private sector, he added.

"Land agents say that it is an excellent location and that once Discovery Park has had all its manufacturing space taken, then businesses will look at the next nearest space."

He would not be drawn on how many jobs had been created by EKO, which has received public funding worth several hundred thousand pounds since it was set up six years ago.

An Exeter-based firm has recently relocated to Manston Business Park. Rowe Atlantic, a holding company for a variety of subsidiary ventures, including a supermarket trolley recovery service, is to move in next April.

Discovery Park on the site of the former Pfizer park
Discovery Park on the site of the former Pfizer park
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