First tenants move into County Gate 2

THE FIRST workers have moved into Maidstone's newest offices, raising hopes that hundreds more will follow.

Keys to County Gate 2, one of two prestigious buildings off Royal Engineers Way, have been handed over to bank bosses.

Between them, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and its asset finance subsidiary Lombard, are moving more than 50 staff into the new building.

Around 20 Lombard staff, who have moved from the 20/20 park in Allington, were the first to cross the threshold.

A further 31 from the bank's business finance group in Maidstone High Street will join them shortly.

They are the first tenants of the £10 million complex that has stood empty for more than a year. It can accommodate up to 450 people. Letting agents preferred to wait for the best deals rather than go for lower rents.

Robert Martine of chartered surveyors Martine Waghorn, based in Turkey Mill, Maidstone, is hopeful that now the first people have moved in, many more will follow.

He said: "It always helps to get the first deal done and it makes people realise it's the right thing to go for and they've got to get on with it if they want it. We are having negotiations with a number of other parties.

"Yes, it's taken longer than we would have liked in purely commercial terms but we've got every reason to hang on to our levels of rent because it's such a good development. There will be further lettings to announce during 2003."

RBS has signed a 15-year deal at £21 per sq. ft, a record high for office rentals in the county town.

Graeme Jones, area manager for Maidstone and Medway, hoped the move would be a catalyst.

"This is good news for Maidstone," he said. "We are a growing business and we want to be associated with a growth area. We will do out best to market the town, the country and, where appropriate, the right sort of facilities and infrastructure."

Robin Clayton, Lombard Medway Business Centre manager, welcomed the move, saying it was good to bring both groups of staff together.

"Co-operation will be a lot better, business opportunities will be far better and we can work as one team," he said.

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