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Underpass linking Ashford International Station and Designer Outlet could become 'art trail'

By Georgia Woolf

A dingy underpass is set to be revamped before the multi-million pound Designer Outlet extension opens in the autumn.

Plans to improve the dark walkway under the railway line between Ashford International Station and the Designer Outlet could see the route transformed into an art trail.

Ashford Borough Council is working with McArthurGlen and Network Rail to improve the site - with bosses hoping to make the route an “an attraction in its own right”.

The underpass between the International Station and Designer Outlet
The underpass between the International Station and Designer Outlet

Emily Neighbour, secretary at the Central Ashford Community Forum, welcomed the idea.

She said: “I must admit I have been concerned about the area for some time - it’s unattractive and dark.

“I have reported the broken lights in the past but it is difficult to work out who is responsible.

“One of the concerns I’ve raised in the past is that there’s no litter bins.

This is what the Outlet will look like when it opens in autumn

“I’d like to see something like the underpass at St Pancras in London. It could be also policed more than it is and have better lighting, regular litter picking and inspections.”

Finer details of the scheme are yet to be revealed but council officials say the popular Snowdogs art trail has given inspiration for the project.

In the minutes of an Ashford town centre place making board meeting from last year, it said the underpass could be turned into “an attraction in its own right”.

“Eventually it is hoped the route could encompass some sort of theme and/or art trail,” it said.

How the outlet extension will look
How the outlet extension will look

A date for the work is yet to be confirmed, but the council has confirmed the improvements will be made before the £90m outlet expansion opens in autumn.

A spokesman said: “After approval from the Ashford town centre place making board of the broad concept, we are now looking at these initial ideas more closely.

"We want to improve access between the station and Designer Outlet and make this area easier, safer and more pleasant to travel through.

Peter Corr and Cllr Gerry Clarkson at the Designer Outlet (1369693)
Peter Corr and Cllr Gerry Clarkson at the Designer Outlet (1369693)

“This was something which came out of the town centre consultation and is part of the conditions of the expansion of the Designer Outlet.

“We are therefore working closely with the outlet and various landowners to look at some interesting and exciting ways of improving the area ahead of the expansion completion this autumn.”

Designer Outlet manager Peter Corr confirmed the shopping centre is working with ABC.

He added: “It’s still very early stages so a programme of work and key dates are yet to be confirmed.”

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