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Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre plan dealt a blow

Council bosses say ambitious plans for a model train centre are still alive - despite missing out on £10m of government cash to buy the land.

KentOnline's sister title the Kentish Express revealed in January how the Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre (AIMREC) could move into historic engine sheds at the town’s former railway works.

Ashford Borough Council (ABC) applied to the government for cash to buy the land off Newtown Road, but has now been told its bid was unsuccessful.

The former engine sheds
The former engine sheds

ABC leader Gerry Clarkson says he still remains interested in the prominent site, adding: “AIMREC is still alive and well.

“We always pursue our objectives and we are still interested in Newtown as we are with many other sites in the town.

“I am not disappointed about not getting the funding, I am pragmatic.

Council leader Gerry Clarkson
Council leader Gerry Clarkson

“Our bid didn’t include a large quantity of housing and, although I am speculating, they probably went in the direction of more housing.”

ABC submitted the £10m bid to the government’s housing infrastructure fund (HIF), which is part of a £2.3billion pot offering money to local authorities to help build new homes.

AIMREC chief executive Cliff Parsons said in January how the centre would have opened in spring 2021 if the bid proved successful.

The historic railway works could still become home to AIMREC
The historic railway works could still become home to AIMREC

It would have spread across 60,000 sq ft and was expected to attract up to 500,000 visitors a year.

ABC chief executive Tracey Kerly says the authority will continue to work on the plan, adding: “We acknowledge that our bid to the HIF was unsuccessful.

“While naturally disappointed we recognise this was a truly competitive process.

“We will continue to search for funding streams and options that will enable us to realise the many ambitions we had for the Newtown Works site and would like to place on record our thanks to the high-profile stakeholders who endorsed our bid.”

The Kentish Express contacted Mr Parsons for comment, but received no response.

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