Published: 12:17, 29 April 2014
The government is being urged to boost growth in Kent and Medway by helping fund dozens of transport schemes and other investment projects.
The Kent and Medway Growth Deal is a six-year £500m masterplan that according to KCC could lead to 128,000 homes and 165,000 jobs between now and 2020.
It has been drawn up by Kent County Council and Medway Council and focuses on development in four key areas: Thames Gateway Kent; East Kent - including Ashford; Maidstone and the M20 corridor and West Kent, including the Medway Valley.
It forms a part of a wider strategic plan submitted to the government by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), which consists of council leaders and business representatives.
The government has set aside £2bn to fund schemes across the country and has asked each LEP to prepare bids for a share of the money.
KCC and Medway want £501m for dozens of projects, of which £360m is for transport related schemes,including improvements to the M20 at Junction 10a at Ashford and Junction 5 of the M2.
A report setting out where funding is needed says growth in the county and Medway to be significant over the next two decades, with the population increasing by 13% - around 220,000 people, equal to five towns the size of Tunbridge Wells.
"If we are to fully unlock our potential, we must overcome the transport and infrastructure and financing constraints that impede growth...” - KCC and Medway Council
The submission says: “Kent and Medway have major opportunities for expansion...but if we are to fully unlock our potential, we must overcome the transport and infrastructure and financing constraints that impede growth.”
Eight developments in and around Ashford are a key focus of the blueprint.
Among them is the development of 5,750 new homes at Chilmington Green as a Garden City; a new M20 junction at 10a and a new Ashford International College in the town centre.
“Growth in Ashford is central to the economic expansion of East Kent...with Ashford expanding more over the next decade than any other Kent district,” the report states.
For the Thames Gateway, the bid report urges support for improving junctions on the A2 at Bean and Ebbsfleet ahead of the new ‘garden city’ proposal and the more money for the Fastrack bus scheme.
Cllr Mark Dance, (Con) KCC’s cabinet member for regeneration, acknowledged that Kent and Medway’s bid was ambitious but was optimistic about the prospects of government support.
“We are the largest LEP in the country and have argued that for every pound invested here, there is a far better return than anywhere else. We feel we have got the balance right.”
The government is expected to announce this summer which projects it will support.