Creating a 21st Century County Town
Maidstone Borough Council
1 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HE
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Challenges And Opportunities..................................... 5
2. Context and Drivers of Competitiveness ........................................... 2
3. Maidstone Today: The State Of The Economy ................................. 12
4. Analysis Of Key sectors .................................................................. 32
5. Maidstone in 2028: Vision And Objectives ...................................... 51
6. The Economic Development Strategy ............................................. 54
A. ................................................... Developing Specialisms: Priority Sectors 55
B. .................... Creating a More Innovative and Entrepreneurial Economy 66
C. ........................................................... Attracting and Retaining Investment 73
D. .................................................Developing a Culture of Lifelong Learning 77
E. ............................................................................ Transport and Connectivity 83
7. Spatial Implications ....................................................................... 90
8. Making It Happen: The Action Plan ................................................. 98
9. Appendix ...................................................................................... 107
I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. This economic development strategy marks a critical juncture for Maidstone
Borough Council and partners. While the borough has a fundamentally sound
economy - employment is growing, economic activity rates are high and it is
an attractive place to invest - there is a feeling that for its size and status,
the Maidstone economy does not „punch its weight‟. For footloose investors
and existing businesses in the borough, other attractive alternatives are
emerging – both home and abroad. None more so than in the neighbouring
Growth Areas of the Thames Gateway and Ashford, where massive
investment in homes, jobs and the environment is planned.
2. To make a bigger impact in the regional economy, Maidstone needs a shared
vision for the local economy and an agreed set of priority actions to deliver
that vision. Economic development continues to move up the national policy
agenda; in due course, the Government will give more responsibility to local
authorities to play a stronger role in developing their local economy. In
keeping with this, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA)
plans to devolve more funding to subregional partnerships and local
authorities where there is sufficient capacity.
3. This Strategy, prepared by Shared Intelligence, sets out recommendations
for the Council and partners to respond to the challenges facing the
Maidstone economy, and the new responsibilities facing the Council for
driving economic development. A summary version has been prepared for
4. By 2028, the economic vision agreed with stakeholders is to create:
“a model „21st century county town, a distinctive place, known for its blend of
sustainable rural and urban living, excellence in public services, dynamic service
sector-based economy, and above all, quality of life.”
5. In order to deliver the vision, the Strategy identifies a series of priority
actions to strengthen the competitiveness of the Maidstone economy, these
developing sector specialisms – including professional and business
services, creative and media, sustainable construction, the public
sector, retail and leisure, and tourism.
creating a more innovative and entrepreneurial economy –
including proposals for an Enterprise Centre, strengthening knowledge
transfer in the HE sector, and ensuring that more Maidstone
companies benefit from business support services provided by SEEDA
and its sister organisations.
attracting and retaining investment – working more closely with
Locate in Kent to ensure the Maidstone offer is responsive to market
requirements, and building a closer relationship with key local
developing a culture of lifelong learning – supporting the expansion
and consolidation of Mid Kent College and University College for the
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Creative Arts, and maximising take up of national training programmes
such as Train to Gain.
investing in transport and infrastructure – putting forward the
case, and lobbying relevant authorities, for investments in
infrastructure that will unlock economic growth, notably faster rail
services to London, M20 junction improvements, and the Maidstone
Strategic Link Road.
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6. The Council is clear that to be more competitive, the local economy needs to
grow to accommodate more businesses and employment. Last year, the
Council successfully applied for „Growth Point‟ status, which means 10,000
additional homes will be built in the borough, and the additional population
will itself provide a boost to the economy. The challenge is to ensure that this
growth is sustainable where new jobs are provided for new and existing
residents, where new investment in transport infrastructure underpins
growth, where innovative new public and community services are planned in
advance of development, and where growth is planned in a way which
minimises the impact on the environment.
7. Putting in place the appropriate planning framework, and ensuring that
Maidstone has a suitable range of sites and premises, will be key to enabling
economic growth. In accordance with the Local Development Framework
(LDF), the town centre should be the first priority. Within the town centre,
rejuvenating the office market is a critical goal; the Council needs to work
with partners to tackle the oversupply of outdated office stock which is unfit
for modern business, and to bring forward new high quality developments.
The strategy also recommends further development of the retail and leisure
sectors, building on the success of Fremlin Walk, by attracting more
independent high quality retailers and cultural attractions. These
challenges will require a comprehensive approach to the town centre, which
we should be taken forward and embedded into the planning system via a
future Town Centre Development Plan Document (DPD), to be prepared upon
completion of the Core Strategy.
8. In a sequential fashion, where appropriate space is not available within the
town centre, MBC should support complementary office, industrial and
warehousing activity on edge of town sites with good strategic access.
Elsewhere, rural towns and villages are able to develop organically as
economic service centres in their own right to support the rural economy.
9. The Strategy cannot be delivered by Maidstone Borough Council alone and
requires the support of partners from the public, private and voluntary
sectors. We recommend the creation of a new economic partnership for
Maidstone, bringing together and integrating more closely, the work of
partners such as Mid Kent College, the University College for the Creative
Arts (UCCA), the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA),
Business Link, the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Business,
the Professional Hub and other partners with an interest in local economic
development. The new partnership will need to be closely linked to the work
of the Local Strategic Partnership and the Sustainable Community Strategy.
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1. INTRODUCTION: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
1.1. Maidstone sits at the heart of Kent, the County‟s administrative capital, and
home to 142,800 people. Surrounded by beautiful countryside and with
excellent strategic connections to London and the rest of Kent, Maidstone is
an attractive place to live and work. Compared to national averages, there
are more highly qualified, well-paid professionals living in Maidstone. The
borough‟s location is also attractive for businesses, providing access to the
channel ports, two trans-European motorway networks (the M20 and M2)
and direct rail connections to the capital.
1.2. Over the last ten years, the borough has experienced steady growth in GVA
per head and total employment1. Its civic and administrative role supports a
large public sector and professional services sector including legal, insurance,
and accountancy professions. The town centre is a thriving shopping and
leisure destination serving the local population and the wider county. There
are low levels of unemployment in the borough and evidence of an
entrepreneurial spirit. However, there is also a feeling that for a town of its
size, Maidstone does not „punch its weight‟ in its contribution to the South
1.3. Looking forward, there are good prospects for continued steady economic
growth in Maidstone but also significant risks. For footloose investors,
indigenous businesses, and skilled employees, new and more competitive
alternatives to Maidstone are emerging - both home and abroad. The
Government‟s response to national housing shortages has been a massive
build programme focused on its Growth Areas, two of which - Ashford and
the Thames Gateway – are on Maidstone‟s doorstep. Huge investment in
housing, jobs and the environment is now being channelled into these areas2.
This represents a threat but also an opportunity for Maidstone. It could either
grow complementarily, benefiting from this investment, or stand still and see
new and existing businesses locate elsewhere.
1.4. The borough needs to be in a position to respond to these complex global,
national and local challenges. It needs to grow to accommodate more
businesses, employment, and people. In doing so there are opportunities to
make a greater contribution to the Greater South East economy and the UK
as a whole.
1.5. Now, more than ever, Maidstone needs clear direction and an ambitious
growth orientated economic strategy. The public sector has a vital enabling
role to play and this is fully endorsed by Maidstone Borough Council. In
2006, the Council successfully bid to the Government for New Growth Point
status, and consequently some 10,080 new homes are planned for the
borough over the next 20 years. Housing growth in Maidstone needs to go
hand-in-hand with economic growth. If it does not, there is a danger that the
borough will become more of a dormitory town where people commute out of
the district to work, putting added strain on the transport network.
1.6. Growth Point status provides a major opportunity for the Council to be
ambitious and forward looking in its plans for the borough. The challenge is
See Section 3 „The State of the Economy‟
See Appendix for the investment plans of neighbouring boroughs.
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to ensure that growth is sustainable where new jobs are provided for new
and existing residents, where new investment in transport infrastructure
underpins growth, where innovative new public and community services are
planned well in advance of development, and where growth is planned in a
way which minimises the impact on the environment. In doing so, Maidstone
will become a more competitive location for investment.
Purpose of this report
1.7. Shared Intelligence (Si) was commissioned in January 2008 by Maidstone
Borough Council to prepare an economic vision, strategy and action plan–
a collective and bold response to the economic challenges facing the borough
shared by stakeholders.
1.8. The main purposes of the document are to:
articulate a clear vision and direction for the Maidstone economy
agreed with partners;
assess the health of the Maidstone economy today and the main
strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats;
identify the sectors with growth potential and interventions to support
their development; and to
prepare a programme of interventions – both spatial and thematic - to
improve the competitiveness of the Maidstone economy.
1.9. This is not a development plan document; it does not provide information on
specific spatial economic development allocations. However, it will inform the
preparation of the Local Development Framework (LDF) by reinforcing and
supplementing the spatial development principles in order to support the
growth of the economy.
1.10. The process for developing the report comprised five main stages:
a review of the regional, subregional and local strategic context;
a socio-economic baseline report „The State of the Economy‟ prepared
by Gavurin Ltd;
a programme of face-to-face and telephone interviews with 32
a Visioning Workshop held on 12th February 2008 attended by 40
delegates from the local area, setting a new aspirational vision for the
local economy; and
a Strategy Development Workshop on the 7th March 2008 to develop
the main elements of the strategy with stakeholders.
See Appendix for list of stakeholders.
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Structure of this Report
1.11. We begin in Section 2 with a review of the strategic policy context and the
drivers of competitiveness that will determine the future of the Maidstone
economy. In Section 3 we provide a summary audit of the Maidstone
economy today and recent trends based on the work of Gavurin Ltd and the
accompanying „State of the Economy‟ report.
1.12. In Section 4, we provide an analysis of the key sectors in Maidstone and
identify priorities for the strategy. In Section 5, we articulate the Vision and
Objectives for the Maidstone economy in 2028, the outcome of a scenario
planning workshop facilitated by Si. Section 6 sets out the main elements of
the Economic Development Strategy that will deliver the vision– A)
developing specialisms; B) creating a more innovative and entrepreneurial
economy; C) attracting and retaining investment; D) developing a culture of
lifelong learning; and E) transport and connectivity – supporting the free flow
of goods and services.
1.13. Section 7 examines the spatial implications of the strategy; and Section 8
sets out the Action Plan and governance arrangements for delivery and
implementation of the strategy.
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Context and Drivers
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2. CONTEXT AND DRIVERS OF COMPETITIVENESS
2.1. The future of Maidstone‟s economy must be considered in the context of a
rapidly changing global and national economy where competition for
investment between places in the UK and abroad is intense. Emerging
economies such as China and India are now driving global growth; while
these developing nations have traditionally competed on price – particularly
in volume manufacturing - they will increasingly challenge developed
economies in „knowledge-intensive‟ markets. UK companies need to be able
to respond quickly and flexibly to economic change if they are to stay ahead.
2.2. The impact of climate change is now a critical issue and, importantly, how
economic development can be maintained whilst minimising the impact on
the surrounding environment. In the UK, the Stern Review4 set out the
economic case for taking action to halt and reverse climate change. It is
argued that doing so is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, in that it
will create major business opportunities as new markets are created in low
carbon goods and services.
2.3. With this bigger picture in mind, we begin this section with an overview of
what makes some towns and cities more able than others to successfully
compete in the global economy. We go on to review the current strategic
policy context and implications for the strategy.
What makes towns and cities successful?
2.4. In broad terms, successful towns and cities are those that lead their regional
and national economies. Such places tend to be those that are competitive,
productive and innovative. The forces that lead to their creation are highly
complex. In recent years, there has been considerable debate among
academics and policy makers about the notion of competitiveness at
national, regional and local level. For the purposes of this report, we define
urban economic competitiveness as:
“the ability of cities and regions to continually upgrade their business environment, skill base,
and physical, social and cultural infrastructures, so as to attract and retain high-growth,
innovative and profitable firms, and an educated, creative and entrepreneurial workforce,
thereby enabling them to achieve a high rate of productivity, high employment rate, high
wages, high GDP per capita, and low levels of income inequality and social exclusion”.
2.5. This definition was put forward by leading academics in the „The State of the
English Cities‟5 report prepared for CLG (2006). Therefore, we need a
framework for understanding the drivers of economic competitiveness.
Academics concur that productivity is fundamental to competitiveness. The
Treasury model of regional productivity growth is well rehearsed, focusing on
the five drivers: skills; innovation; enterprise; investment; and competition
(HM Treasury 2001; 2004). However, in our view, while these drivers are
important, at the local level we need a broader framework. For this, we again
draw on the State of the English Cities report.
Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, October 2006.
Martin.R in CLG (2006) „The State of the Economic Cities: The Competitive Economic Performance of
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2.6. Broadly, there are six, not mutually exclusive, theories that have been
forward to explain urban economic competitiveness. These focus on:
the tradable economic base of regions;
increasing returns and agglomeration economies;
endogenous growth models - knowledge and innovation theories;
cultural economy theories; and
2.7. These theories are explained in further detail in the accompanying Appendix.
The following „competitiveness pyramid‟, draws on elements of the above
theories to illustrate diagrammatically the drivers of competitiveness, which
in turn lead to higher standards of living.
Source: The State of The English Cities (CLG, 2006)
2.8. The pyramid comprises a number of different layers. At the top, the target
outcome is to increase standard of living, conventionally captured by GVA per
capita. Revealed measures of urban economic performance include
productivity, the employment rate, wages and profits. These are in turn the
outcomes of key drivers of urban competitiveness in the middle of the
pyramid. Many were identified as future drivers of change by stakeholders in
Maidstone at the visioning workshop.
Innovation, creativity and enterprise - Entrepreneurial activity and
the exploitation of new ideas through innovation are widely recognised
as critical drivers of economic growth. Within this context, a critical
factor is the adaptive capacity of local economies and how easily
innovations are diffused around firms and sectors. In addition, the
proliferation of „creativity‟ across all industries is to thought be
important for innovation.
Investment – Knowledge-based economies require risk investment
from both indigenous companies and external investors. Entrepreneurs
need to have easy access to capital to develop new business ventures.
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Similarly, there is a key role for Councils through the LDF Core
Strategy, to ensure sufficient land is allocated in suitable locations to
enable this investment, and to market the opportunities.
Human capital – a highly qualified workforce is a pre-requisite for
local areas to compete in the knowledge driven economy. Higher
skilled workers are more productive and provide the ideas which in
turn lead to innovation.
Economic specialisation – there are differing views over whether
diversity or specialisation is more conducive to competitiveness.
Evidence suggests that specialisation is more significant in the ability
to innovate. On the other hand, reliance on one or two industries is a
risky strategy. Therefore, the best combination is specialised and
clustered diversity combined with adaptive capacity.
Connectivity – successful economies are generally well connected.
This can take a number of forms including physical road, rail, air
connections, as well as electronic communications, and business
Quality of life – although quality of life is difficult to define and
measure, there is evidence to suggest that it affects investment
decisions. Firms continue to rank transport and skills highly in their
investment decision-making, but they also seek good quality housing
for their workers, good schools and a high quality environment.
Decision making – strategic decision making by urban authorities is
a key driver of competitiveness when effective governance
arrangements are in place.
2.9. These seven key drivers provide an organising framework for this Strategy.
In Section 3, we consider how Maidstone performs today in relation to these
drivers and in section 6 we identify opportunities to strengthen them.
2.10. It should be noted that the strategy is being prepared at a time when the
global and national economic outlook is less favourable. Focusing on
strengthening key „drivers of competitiveness‟, essentially means putting in
place the supply side conditions to enable economic growth. However,
economic development may occur at a slower pace, or will be harder to
achieve, if macroeconomic conditions continue to dampen demand. In
particular, the current state of the housing and property markets are likely to
have implications for development led regeneration and growth.
Strategic Policy Context
2.11. The Economic Development Strategy for Maidstone sits within a wider
European, national, regional and local policy context, which provides an
important backdrop. This includes:
the Lisbon Agenda;
the Subnational Review of Economic Development and PPS4;
The Regional Economic Strategy and the Regional Spatial Strategy;
Kent Prospects, the Kent Regeneration Strategy, and the Kent
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Maidstone Sustainable Community Strategy; and
Maidstone Local Development Framework.
2.12. Looking forward, it will be essential for the growth aspirations and
investment plans identified in the Economic Development Strategy to be
reflected in partners‟ strategic documents.
The Lisbon Agenda
2.13. The Lisbon Agenda continues to set the guiding principles for European
economic development. The strategy focuses on three strategic goals to get
European economies „into shape for globalisation‟6:
Knowledge and innovation for growth
Making Europe a more attractive place to invest and work
Creating more and better jobs
2.14. The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) is committed to
making the region a leader in delivering the Lisbon Strategy, this means:
exposing more of the region‟s businesses to the stimulus of global
markets through the interchanges of trade, investment, people and
building trade links with emerging economic powerhouses;
collaborating to innovate across regional, national and continental
raising skill levels to match improvements elsewhere in the global
creating an entrepreneurial spirit across all businesses in all sectors
that seek out new opportunities and new markets, rather than relying
on existing products, processes and supply chains.7
2.15. These principles are all relevant to the Maidstone economy, and have guided
preparation of the strategy.
Sub National Review of Economic Development and Regeneration (SNR)
2.16. In the UK, the publication of the Government‟s Sub National Review of
Economic Development and Regeneration (SNR) is bringing about a
significant overhaul in the way economic development and regeneration is
delivered. The Government will outline the implications of SNR in more detail
in forthcoming policy guidance.
2.17. Looking at the SNR, it is clear that local authorities will be expected to play a
much stronger role in promoting economic development than hitherto. A
statutory duty will be introduced to prepare a local economic development
strategy. This report therefore comes at a timely moment for the Council in
SEEDA Regional Economic Strategy 2006-2016
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responding to the proposed new duty. In return for additional responsibilities,
local authorities will be granted greater financial freedoms such as
Supplementary Business Rates (SBRs) to generate additional funds for
infrastructure investment. Following publication of the guidance, it should
become clearer how Maidstone could benefit from such flexibilities.
2.18. At the regional level, SNR advocates rationalisation of regional governance
structures and a single regional strategy in every region, merging the current
regional spatial strategies and regional economic strategies. This should
again serve to heighten the role of local authorities and local economic
development strategies. Local authorities will need to set out the economic
development priorities for their area to feed into the integrated regional
strategy. These priorities will need to be articulated in terms of both spatial
and non-spatial economic development interventions.
Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Development
2.19. The new PPS on Planning for Sustainable Economic Development sets out
how planning bodies should, in the wider context of delivering sustainable
development, positively plan for sustainable economic growth and respond to
the challenges of the global economy, in their plan policies and planning
2.20. This draft statement, published for consultation in December 2007, was
developed in response to recommendations made in the Review of Land Use
Planning by Kate Barker, a commitment made in the White Paper Planning
for a Sustainable Future published in May 2007 and the proposals set out in
the Review of sub-national economic development and regeneration
published in July 2007. It aims to provide the tools for regional planning
bodies and local planning authorities to plan effectively and proactively for
the economic growth they need to help create and maintain sustainable
communities. In seeking to achieve positive planning for economic
development, the Government‟s desired objectives are:
a good range of sites identified for economic development and mixed-
a good supply of land and buildings which offers a range of
opportunities for creating new jobs in large and small businesses as
well as start-up firms and which is responsive to changing needs and
high quality development and inclusive design for all forms of
avoiding adverse impacts on the environment, but where these are
unavoidable, providing mitigation; and
shaping travel demand by promoting sustainable travel choices
2.21. These objectives will be achieved using a number of national policies that
ensure that local planning authorities: plan positively for economic
development using robust evidence; recognise the needs of businesses;
make efficient and effective use of land; and secure a high quality and
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2.22. The consultation period on the draft document ended on 17th March 2008.
When published, the final PPS4 should be taken into account by local
planning authorities and regional planning bodies in the preparation of their
Local Development Documents and Regional Spatial Strategies.
Regional Policy – the RES and the RSS
2.23. The current South East Regional Economic Strategy (RES) 2006-2016
prepared by SEEDA sets out the vision for the South East as a world class
region achieving sustainable prosperity. The strategy is organised around
three challenges – becoming globally competitive, raising levels of
productivity and economic activity, and pursuing economic growth within
environmental limits. A range of interventions are laid out in the RES,
including regional infrastructure improvements, using further and higher
education as a catalyst for regeneration, supporting enterprise and business
start-ups and encouraging initiatives that contribute to sustainability targets.
2.24. The Strategy groups areas of the region into three broad classifications – the
Inner South East, Growth Areas, Coastal Areas, and the Rural South East –
and interventions are shaped around the characteristics of these areas. The
Inner South East is targeted for support to help it match the best knowledge
sector businesses and research centres in the region with the best in the
world. The Growth Areas (Thames Gateway, Ashford and the South Midlands)
are targeted for massive investments in infrastructure, training and skills,
and enterprise, innovation and business support. Plans for Coastal Areas
revolve around tapping into their environmental potential through leisure-led
growth, improving connectivity and nurturing creative industries and
innovation. Lastly, the focus for the rural south east is on making towns and
villages economically viable through the promotion of higher value added
businesses and rural industries including agriculture.
2.25. Eight „Diamonds for Investment and Growth‟ are identified in the RES8, -
considered to be „economic catalysts‟ for the region as a whole. They are
centred around large towns or cities with high concentrations of people,
transport, built assets, employment, networking and creativity. These
diamonds are the focus for investment in the region.
2.26. Maidstone sits awkwardly within SEEDA‟s RES classifications, neither a high
growth „diamond‟ of the inner core, nor a coastal town with regeneration
needs. Policies related to the rural economy, and cross cutting regional
policies, around business support are relevant, although non-place specific.
As a consequence, there is a feeling that Maidstone has failed to attract its
fair share of regional spending.
2.27. The implications of the current RES are twofold; first, it is essential that
Maidstone companies are encouraged to take advantage of non-place specific
SEEDA regional support services – discussed later in this report. Second,
looking forward, Maidstone needs to make a clearer case for why it can make
a bigger contribution to the region, clearly articulating the priorities for
Milton Keynes, Oxford, Reading, Basingstoke, Gatwick Diamond, Medway, Brighton and Hove, and urban
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economic development where SEEDA support could act as a catalyst for
growth. This document will provide the starting point for future discussions.
2.28. The Draft South East Plan (also known as the Regional Spatial Strategy)
developed by the South East England Assembly “provides the statutory
regional framework that forms the context within which Local Development
Documents and Local Transport Plans need to be prepared, as well as other
regional and sub-regional strategies and programmes that have a bearing on
land use activities”9.
2.29. The draft Plan was approved by the Assembly and submitted to Government
in March 2006. Following an examination in public in 2007, the Inspector‟s
Panel Report was published in August 2007. Proposed changes to the
document will be published by the Secretary of State this summer, and,
following further consultation, the strategy will be adopted in autumn/ winter
2.30. In the current Draft Plan, Maidstone is identified as a regional hub. The
notion of a „regional hub‟ - “settlements where the provision of (or potential
to provide) a range of multimodel transport services supports the
concentration of land used and economic activity in a suitable manner”
(Regional Transport Strategy). The Plan identifies 21 Regional Hubs
including Ashford, Ebbsfleet, Medway Towns, Tonbridge-Tunbridge Wells, and
2.31. As a key regional hub, the draft South East Plan describes Maidstone as
having the “potential to accommodate significantly higher levels of
development during the Plan period”. The Report of the Panel of Inspectors
put significant emphasis on the need to promote economic development in
Maidstone, stating that the Local Development Framework should:
make new provision for housing consistent with its Growth Point role,
including associated transport infrastructure;
make new provision for employment of sub-regional significance, with
an emphasis on higher quality jobs to enhance its role as the county
town and a centre for business. The concentration of retail, leisure and
service uses at the centre will allow close integration between
employment, housing and public transport;
confirm the broad scale of new business and related development
already identified and give priority to completion of the major
employment sites in the town;
make Maidstone the focus for expansion and investment in new further
or higher education facilities;
support high quality proposals for intensifying or expanding the
technology and knowledge sectors at established and suitable new
ensure that development of Maidstone complements rather than
competes with the Kent Thames Gateway towns and does not add to
travel pressures between them; and
South East Regional Assembly (2006) „Draft South East Plan‟.
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avoid coalescence between Maidstone and the Medway Gap urban
2.32. Adopted in July 2006, the Kent & Medway Structure Plan (KMSP) sets
out the strategic planning framework for the protection of the area‟s
environment, major transport priorities, and the scale, pattern and broad
location of new development. The purpose of the document is to guide the
preparation of the Local Plans and the LDF, providing a framework in which
decisions can be made.
2.33. In reference to Maidstone, the KMSP‟s area polices focus on urban
regeneration in central Maidstone. Proposals relating to the town centre
focusing new office and residential uses on the centre of Maidstone to
provide close integration between employment, housing and public
transport facilities; and
supporting the enhancement and broadening of the town centre's
retail, leisure, tourism and cultural draw.
2.34. These recommendations provide a fundamental starting point for the
Economic Development and Regeneration in Kent
2.35. Kent Prospects 2007-12 provides the framework for „influencing, guiding
and co-ordinating‟ delivery of „economic development and regeneration
activities‟ by Kent Partnerships‟ stakeholders. Kent County Council is also in
the process of preparing a Regeneration Strategy for the County, which is
due for completion in April 2008. The economic development component of
the Strategy will take its lead from Kent Prospects.
2.36. Kent Prospects identifies „strengths and opportunities‟ to be cultivated and
„weaknesses and threats‟ to be addressed in order to realise the economic
aspects of the Partnership‟s „Vision for Kent‟. Reflecting many of the priorities
from the RES, Kent Prospects sets out a series of actions arranged under four
strengthen Kent‟s accessibility, infrastructure and connections;
develop growth & regeneration opportunities and combat deprivation;
promote enterprise, competitiveness and market opportunities; and
develop pathways to sustainable prosperity.
2.37. Kent Prospects highlights the opportunity for economic growth in Maidstone
as a principal urban centre and „growth point‟. In Maidstone, as in Ashford
and Folkstone, the priorities are to attract investment, develop business,
enterprise and skills opportunities, and enhance the area‟s sense of place and
attractiveness for visitors. There are few Maidstone-specific initiatives, with
the focus largely on other parts of the county – in particular the Growth
Areas and coastal Kent.
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2.38. The Kent Area Agreement 2 is the Local Area Agreement (LAA) for Kent
being prepared by the Kent Partnership. It is the vehicle for taking forward
the ambitions contained in the Vision for Kent. SNR states that LAAs must
now feature at the heart of local authorities‟ economic development
strategies, setting clear achievable targets. In a county the size of Kent,
where the County Council is the top tier authority, making the targets
relevant to all boroughs is a challenge.
2.39. The current headline indicators of the draft Kent Agreement 2 are:
NI163 Working age population qualified to at least level 2 or higher
NI171 VAT registration rate
NI 152 Working age people on out of work benefits
NI188 Adapting to climate change
2.40. While these indicators are to some extent relevant to Maidstone, it will be
necessary to set some targets specific to the borough in or to monitor
progress (See Section 8 of this report).
Maidstone Borough Council Core Policy Documents
2.41. The Local Government White Paper and SNR mean that more than ever the
Economic Development Strategy needs to be aligned with the Council‟s suite
of core documents including the Sustainable Community Strategy, the
Corporate Plan, and the Core Strategy Local Development Framework - the
Council‟s key planning document.
2.42. The Sustainable Community Strategy – now being prepared by the
Council - will set the overall strategy for improving quality of life in the
borough. It is envisaged that this report will be the primary source of input to
the economic development chapter.
2.43. The Local Development Framework (LDF), together with the South East
Plan, will guide the future spatial development of Maidstone. The LDF is
therefore an absolutely critical document for setting the context for future
economic development. The LDF comprises a number of documents; at its
heart is the Core Strategy. Maidstone published its Preferred Options for the
Core Strategy in January 2007. The process for adopting the Core Strategy
has currently been put on hold until the outcome of the Kent International
Gateway (KIG) planning application is resolved.
2.44. The Core Strategy Preferred Options document sets out a spatial vision for
Maidstone and a number of spatial objectives relevant to the economic
development strategy. Section E of this report examines in further detail the
spatial implications of the economic development strategy and its
relationship to the LDF.
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The State of the
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3. MAIDSTONE TODAY: THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY
3.1. It is essential that policy recommendations in the Economic Development
Strategy are evidence-based. Analysis of the state of the Maidstone economy
today and recent trends therefore provides an important component of the
report. This section also provides a baseline against which economic
performance and the success of the strategy can be monitored.
3.2. The narrative below is a summary of the statistical analysis in the „State of
The Economy‟ report undertaken by Gavurin, included as a supporting
document. By way of a comparison, equivalent figures for Great Britain and
the South East are included, and where appropriate we also benchmark with
local authorities in Kent and other places in the UK with similar industrial
An attractive place to live and work
3.3. Maidstone is the „county town‟ and administrative capital of Kent, covering
40,000 hectares of land, just over 30 miles south east of London. Positioned
between the capital and the channel ports, served by two trans-European
motorway networks - the M20 and M2 - and rail connections to central
London, Maidstone is strategically well placed to support a successful
3.4. Maidstone town sits within a picturesque rural landscape in the „Garden of
England‟, with some parts of the borough in the Kent Downs Area of
Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is an attractive place to live and work, home
to many relatively affluent individuals, many of whom commute out of the
district to work in London. This is important as quality of life is identified as
a driver of competitiveness. Maidstone was recently placed 2nd in the Royal
Bank of Scotland‟s 2007 Affordable Affluence Index, which ranks locations in
the UK based on the availability and affordability of an „affluent lifestyle‟10.
3.5. Maidstone has a thriving town centre which among the top 50 retail centres
in the country11. The borough is also a safe place to live, boasting low fire
and road traffic victim numbers, and low crime rates (See chart 49, p.89 &
chart 50, p.90 State of the Economy (SOE) report). Moreover, the borough is
home to good schools and housing is relatively affordable when compared to
the South East – the average price for a property in Maidstone is £241,444,
compared to £241,836 in Kent and £275,549 in the South East.
Modest recent growth in productivity, employment and
3.6. Overall economic performance in Maidstone over recent years has been
steady if not spectacular, with modest growth in productivity, employment
For example, top performing schools, good restaurants and cultural attractions
Retail Footprint 2007
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Relatively low productivity growth
3.7. Productivity - usually defined as the ratio of a volume measure of output to a
volume measure of input12 - is key to competitiveness. It is the main reason
behind the differences in the growth between regions. Therefore, Maidstone‟s
productivity is a good indication of the „economic health‟ or competitiveness
of the borough.
3.8. The graph below shows estimated GVA per worker - a proxy for productivity
in an area - in Maidstone and other local authorities in Kent between 1998
and 2005. GVA per worker for Maidstone has shown steady growth between
1998 and 2005, with the most recent data estimating GVA per worker at
Gross Value Added per worker for Local Authorities in Kent, 1998-2005
3.9. However, for a town of its size and status, Maidstone‟s performance is weak.
In 1998, four of the twelve local authorities in Kent had higher productivity
levels than Maidstone. In 2005, this had increased to seven of the twelve
authorities; with only Gravesham, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet and Canterbury
with a GVA per worker lower than Maidstone. Low productivity in Maidstone
is likely to be driven by low innovation levels, a lack of Higher Education
provision and the absence of sector specialisation, as described below in this
3.10. Compared with places of similar industrial structure nationally, Maidstone
fairs better. It is important to make this comparison because industrial
structure plays a major part in productivity. The proliferation of public sector
employment in Maidstone is likely to weaken the productivity picture in the
£33,700 is the value of goods and services produced in the Maidstone economy (minus costs) per
worker. These figures are estimates.
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Gross Value Added per worker in places with a similar industrial structure to
Maidstone, 2000-2005 Source: ABI, Gavurin
3.11. In 2005 Maidstone had the second highest GVA per worker in comparison to
Bolton, Chelmsford, Croydon, Gloucester and Lewes. Only Croydon had
higher productivity levels.
Modest employment growth
3.12. Turning to employment growth, the graph below shows Maidstone‟s
performance relative to the South East and Great Britain. Employment
growth has been sluggish overall when compared to the South East.
Employment growth in Maidstone, 1995-2006 Source: ABI
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3.13. Maidstone, along with Great Britain and the South East, experienced a fall in
total employment between 2005 and 2006. This is likely to be the result of
inconsistencies in ABI data collection rather than anything more serious but it
should be monitored.
Modest population growth but forecast to rise
3.14. According to 2006 mid-year ONS estimates, Maidstone has one of the largest
populations in Kent with 142,800 individuals residing in the borough.
However, historic trends suggest that there has been little growth in the
population in recent years, with a population growth of just 3.18% recorded
between 1996 and 2006. Great Britain (4.15%), the South East (5.16%)
and Kent (6.57%) have all grown at a significantly faster rate.
Population change 1996-
Great Britain 58,845,700 4.15%
South East 8,237,800 5.61%
Kent 1,382,900 6.57%
Ashford 111,200 15.35%
Maidstone 142,800 3.18%
Medway Towns 251,700 4.31%
Swale 128,500 9.55%
Tonbridge and Malling 113,900 9.20%
Tunbridge Wells 104,600 2.35%
Source: Mid-year ONS estimates for 2006, Nomis
3.15. Compared to neighbouring boroughs, only the population of Tunbridge Wells
(2.35%) has increased by a smaller amount over the last ten years.
Notably, Tonbridge & Malling and Swale have seen a population increase of
almost 10% since 1996, while Ashford‟s population has grown significantly at
3.16. South East Plan forecasts predict more rapid population growth in Maidstone
for the next ten years and beyond. These forecasts predict that the
population will grow by 5.7% between 2006 and 2016, and 10.4% between
2006 and 2026 respectively. This is an increase of 14,900 individuals over
the next 20 years and significantly more than recent historic trends. The
change will to a large extent be driven by the scale of new housing growth.
Source: South East Plan population forecasts
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3.17. Meanwhile growth for many of the surrounding boroughs is projected to be
much lower14. Ashford is again expected to see the largest growth.
Some sector strengths but few specialisms
3.18. Specialisation and clustering in an area gives a local economy a competitive
advantage, encourages high productivity, stimulates inward investment and
knowledge exchange, and attracts skilled labour to the area. The absence of
specialisms is therefore a serious weakness. Analysis by Gavurin Ltd in the
accompanying State of the Economy report identifies no sector
specialisms15 in Maidstone.
3.19. From our discussions with stakeholders, a number of sectors have been
highlighted as potential strengths in the borough, most notably: business
and professional services, the public sector, and creative and media sectors.
These sectors are discussed in more detail in section 6.
3.20. As the graph below illustrates, the distribution of employment in Maidstone
largely reflects its „county town‟ status, with almost a third of employment in
public administration, education and health– more than double the
proportion employed in the South East and Great Britain.
Employment distribution (%) Source: ABI
Medway Council disagree with the projections for the unitary authority.
Specialisms are geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated
institutions in an area.
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3.21. Compared to national and regional averages, Maidstone also has
proportionally more people - almost 15% - working in the „Health and Social
Work‟ sector, and a larger percentage working in „Construction‟. Maidstone
has fewer people working in the „Wholesale and Retail trade‟, „Manufacturing‟
3.22. Looking at time series data, significant increases in the proportion of
individuals employed in „public administration, education and health‟ and
„construction‟ occurred between 1998 and 2006. Employment in the
construction sector increased by 15.5%, while employment in „public
administration, education and health‟ increased by 29.0%.
3.23. The distribution of employment in broadly mirrored by the distribution of
firms. The graph below shows the current distribution of firms in the
Distribution of firms in Maidstone Source: ABI
3.24. In line with the national and regional make up of companies, there are a
large number of „wholesale and retail trade‟ businesses, and „real estate, rent
and business‟ firms. Notably, Maidstone has proportionally more firms in
„construction‟ compared to Great Britain and the South East.
A tight labour market
3.25. With regards to economic activity, the Maidstone economy performs very
well. The unemployment rate – the number of unemployed persons as a
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proportion of the economically active population – in Maidstone (3.6%) is
below the Great British (5.4%), South East (4.2%) and Kent (5.4%)
averages. The claimant count – the proportion of the working age
population claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) – also lies below the South
East (1.3%) average, and is significantly smaller than the national (2.2%)
and county (1.6%) figures.
Employment Unemployment Inactivity rate Total claimant
Area rate (%) rate(%) (%) rate (%)
Great Britain 74.3 5.4 21.5 2.2
South East 78.5 4.2 18.0 1.3
Ashford 75.5 8.2 17.7 1.2
Maidstone 78.9 3.6 18.1 1.1
Medway Towns 77.6 5.2 18.2 2.2
Swale 72.9 6.2 22.2 2.5
Tonbridge and Malling 76.0 2.7 21.9 0.9
Tunbridge Wells 79.9 3.9 16.8 0.9
Kent 76.0 5.4 19.6 1.6
Source: Annual Population Survey, 2007
3.26. With the exception of Tunbridge & Malling, none of the surrounding local
authorities can boast an unemployment rate lower than Maidstone‟s.
Likewise, Maidstone, along with Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and
Ashford has very lower claimant rates. Elsewhere in the county, Swale and
the Medway Towns experience almost double the proportion of individuals
3.27. Correspondingly, the inactivity rate – the proportion of the working age
population not activity participating or seeking work - for Maidstone is very
low at 18.1%. This is 2.4 percentage points lower than the Great British
average and 1.4 percentage points lower than Kent. However, it stands
slightly below the average for the South East. Compared to Maidstone‟s
neighbours, the borough again performs very well – only Ashford and
Tunbridge Wells have marginally lower inactivity rates.
3.28. In keeping with this trend, the employment rate – the percentage of the
working age population in employment – in Maidstone (78.9%) is higher than
in Kent (76%), the South East (78.5%) and Great Britain (74.3%); and
exceeds all but one of its neighbouring local authorities (Tunbridge Wells).
Employment in Kent
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Number of people
The figure above illustrates the number of individuals employed in all of
the local authorities in Kent, showing that Maidstone is the largest employer
of all local authorities. After fluctuating in the late nineties, Maidstone‟s
employment has risen steadily until 2005. In 2006, there appears to be a
slight fall in the number of individuals employed in Maidstone, but this looks
to be replicated by the majority of other local authorities in Kent.
Persistent gap between resident and worker wages– but closing
3.29. The table below shows the total16 gross weekly residence and workplace
earnings and the „wage gap‟ in Maidstone in 2002 and 2007 compared to
Great Britain, the South East, Kent and the surrounding local authorities.
Workplace earnings in Maidstone are lower than the South East (£392.70)
average and only on a par with Great Britain (£376.00).
Gross between Gross weekly between
Gross weekly Gross weekly wage
weekly workplace & workplace workplace &
workplace resident differentials
resident residence earnings residence
earnings 2002 wages 2007 between
wages 2002 earnings 2007 earnings
Great Britain £326.10 £326.30 - £376.00 £376.50 - -
South East £353.10 £365.00 3.37% £392.70 £407.90 3.87% 0.50%
Kent £315.00 £344.50 9.37% £369.40 £399.40 8.12% -1.24%
Ashford £325.00 £349.70 7.60% £364.30 £373.30 2.47% -5.13%
Maidstone £306.90 £361.50 17.79% £376.80 £426.80 13.27% -4.52%
Medway Towns £326.60 £347.20 6.31% £357.80 £401.90 12.33% 6.02%
Swale £310.60 £347.00 11.72% £391.10 £396.60 1.41% -10.31%
£345.50 £329.50 -4.63% £343.70 £443.00 28.89% 33.52%
Tunbridge Wells £310.00 £346.00 11.61% £385.90 £479.10 24.15% 12.54%
Source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2007, Nomis
3.30. As the figures above illustrate, there is a large difference in wages between
residents and workers – in 2007 gross weekly resident earnings (£426.80)
were 13.2% higher than gross weekly workplace earnings (£376.80).
includes full time and part time workers
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Despite this difference, the gap has narrowed over the last five years from
17.79% to 13.27%.
3.31. The wage gap is likely to be explained on the one hand by the large
proportions of out-commuters with relatively high wages, and on the other
by Maidstone‟s industrial structure which is skewed towards lower paid
occupations. Neighbouring authorities with large proportions of the
population working outside the borough - Medway, Tonbridge and Malling,
and Tunbridge Wells17 - also have the largest wage differentials. Notably,
Tonbridge and Malling, the borough with the highest level of out-commuting
at 51.88%, also has the largest wage gap (28.89%).
3.32. While the wage gap in Maidstone is inevitably high, there is room for
improvement. Workplace wages relative to local authorities with a similar
industrial structure in the country are at the upper end of the scale but still
relatively low given Maidstone‟s size and strategic position (see figure
Residents‟ pay in places with a similar industrial structure to Maidstone
Source: ASHE, Gavurin
3.33. At the visioning workshop, there was some discussion about whether the
wage gap in fact matters. The broad consensus was that while the gap will
almost inevitably persist, there is a need to attract more knowledge intensive
businesses to the borough, and also to raise productivity, to increase the
workplace wage rate. Moreover, improving the town centre retail and leisure
offer will enable the borough to capture more expenditure from high earning
Occupation structure skewed towards professional and administrative jobs
3.34. Further evidence for the gap in wages can be seen from the occupational
structure of Maidstone compared to Kent, South East and Great Britain.
The points on the graph below represent location indices - the ratio of local
to national, county to national and regional to national occupation shares
Note that this data is for 2001
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(multiplied by 100). An index greater than 100 represents a relatively high
concentration of that occupation in Maidstone, and vice versa.
Managers and senior officials
Elementary occupations Professional occupations
Process, plant & machine operatives Associate prof & tech occupations
Sales & customer services occupations Administrative & secretarial
Personal service occupations Skilled trade occupations
Source: Annual Population Survey, 2006/2007
3.35. Maidstone has a much higher proportion of individuals in „administrative &
secretarial‟ positions, and also a higher proportion of individuals in „skilled
trade‟ and „associate professional and technical‟ positions than Great Britain,
the South East and Kent. Maidstone also has a significantly lower proportion
of individuals working in „sales and customer service‟ occupations than Great
Britain, and less in „process, plant and machine operative‟ and „elementary‟
occupations. The “higher level” occupations compare favourably to Britain,
and exceed the proportion of individuals employed in these occupations in
3.36. The occupational structure of Maidstone has remained broadly similar over
the last five years but there has been a large recorded increase in the
proportion of people in professional occupations. The proportion in
professional occupations stood at 9.5% in 2002, but now stands at 14.1% in
2007. This is clearly a positive sign for the local economy and could explain
the improvement in the resident and workplace earnings gap.
An entrepreneurial spirit but low levels of innovation
3.37. Enterprise and innovation are both key drivers of productivity and economic
growth. Enterprise refers to the risks taken by businesses when organising
the factors of production; land, labour and capital. New enterprise and
entrepreneurial activity increases productivity through competitive pressures
and innovation, bringing new products and processes to the market. It is
difficult to measure but the number of business start ups, deregistrations and
stock within an area is generally used as a proxy.
3.38. The figure below shows that Maidstone‟s business base of VAT registered
companies has continued to grow since 1995, and that there are
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proportionally more VAT registered businesses per 1,000 working age
residents in the borough than the South East or Great Britain18. The most
recent data from the BERR (formerly DTI) Small Business Service for 2006
suggests registrations continue to outweigh deregistrations; 510 businesses
were registered in 2006, compared to 445 deregistrations. This is a major
plus point for the local economy, as successful economies tend to have a
larger density of businesses.
Growth/decline of VAT registered businesses in Maidstone
Chart 9, Source: ONS
Per 1,000 working aged residents
Number of businesses is indexed to 2005
3.39. entrepreneurial spirit in the borough. As a proportion
There is evidence of an population data.
of all people of working age, there are more male directors living in
Maidstone than the South East and the UK, and more female directors than
the country average (see chart 18, p.42 State of the Economy (SOE) report).
Self employment is also high, with just under 7,000 men and over 2,000
women working for themselves (see chart 19, p. 43 SOE report).
3.40. Innovation within an area refers to the „successful exploitation of new ideas‟
which includes the ability to introduce new products and processes,
ultimately leading to higher rates of productivity and faster rates of growth.
Again, innovation is difficult to measure.
3.41. The Maidstone economy today could not be described as innovative. It has
few specialisms, or clusters of economic activity, that make its economy
distinctive, and which economy theory suggests foster innovation through
agglomeration effects. It has a small Higher Education sector - University
College for the Creative Arts is the main provider - but overall R&D and
knowledge transfer activity is relatively weak.
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3.42. Patent applications is one proxy measure for innovation. In 2006, only 9
patent applications were made in the Maidstone economy; approximately 0.8
per 1000 firms, compared to around 1.2 in Great Britain and 1.6 in the South
In 2006 Maidstone had
9 patent applications. If
it was to be
to the South East
Maidstone would need
7 more applications.
Chart 14, Source: Patent Office, ABI, APS, Gavurin
Patents per 1000 firms
2006 (Patent Office and
3.43. Maidstone‟s poor innovation record could be explained by a number of
factors. First, the proportion of innovation enabling19 businesses in
Maidstone is very low as the chart below illustrates.
Employment in Innovation enabling businesses
As defined by OECD in their four yearly Community Innovation Survey (CIS). This encompasses the UK
Innovation Survey, last completed in 2005.
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Software Research and Development Management
% of employment in Maidstone which is working in innovation Chart 13, Source: ABI
3.44. There are substantially fewer individuals employed in innovation enabling
businesses in the outlined sectors than the South East and Great Britain.
This is particularly true of individuals employed in R&D, where the proportion
is virtually non-existent. The position has changed very little in recent years.
However, the Maidstone economy does seem to have some strength in
3.45. Weak levels of innovation might also be explained by a small higher
education sector in the borough. Universities can be catalysts for innovation
through the exchange of knowledge between HE institutes and industry, or
„business-university innovation linkages‟. While the University College of
Creative Arts has a presence in the borough, it is relatively small and its
knowledge transfer activities are embryonic.
A highly skilled population
3.46. Like innovation, skills are important contributors to economic growth. Skilled
workers are more productive, have the capability to take on sophisticated
tasks and are more flexible as they have greater capacity to absorb and learn
additional skills. Comparatively, low educational attainment and skills levels
are often cited as one of the principal reasons for productivity gaps between
different areas of Great Britain, and between Britain and other countries.
3.47. Encouragingly, Maidstone has a higher proportion of residents educated to
degree level than the South East and Great Britain, with almost 35% being
educated to this level. However, it is likely that significant proportions are
commuting out of the borough for work.
3.48. When examining qualifications lower than degree level, Maidstone residents
do not perform as well. The proportion of residents with A*-C grades at
GCSE and A levels is lower than the South East and national average, whilst
the proportion with lower level qualifications is higher.
Qualifications achieved (residents)
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3.49. It should be noted however that according to 2007 data from the
Department for Children, Schools & Families (DCSF), overall performance of
secondary schools in Maidstone has improved over the last ten years, and a
larger proportion of children in Maidstone achieve 5 or more A*-C grades
compared to county, regional, and national averages.
High levels of commuting
3.50. As noted above, a large number of individuals commute out of the borough
to work in better paid jobs. However, reflecting the importance of Maidstone
as an economic hub, the number of individuals travelling into Maidstone
exceeds the number travelling out - 27,082 compared to 35,96620.
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There are more people travelling into
Maidstone to work than people travelling out.
Chart 1, Source: APS
In order to consider commuting destinations, we have to look back to 2001
census data which is somewhat dated but still useful. This shows that the
proportion of people commuting outside of the borough is broadly similar to
the local authorities of Tunbridge Wells and Medway – around 40%.
Tonbridge & Malling has significantly more out-commuters, with over 50%
leaving the borough for work, while Ashford and Swale has 30.94% and
Area of workplace
London Ashford Maidstone Medway UA Swale
and Malling Wells
London 3,082,959 402 1,239 1,677 353 1,832 959
Ashford 3,248 33,753 2,782 512 543 894 1,190
Maidstone 7,132 1,201 42,009 3,760 1,050 6,908 2,292
Area of residence
Medway UA 17,578 472 8,219 70,740 3,453 5,643 792
Swale 4,724 698 2,743 4,302 36,196 1,150 223
8,514 242 5,398 2,128 354 25,521 3,830
7,202 480 1,559 230 94 4,239 30,914
48,872 69,473 119,256 55,711 53,034 50,865
% working in
69.06% 60.47% 59.32% 64.97% 48.12% 60.78%
30.94% 39.53% 40.68% 35.03% 51.88% 39.22%
Source: Travel to Work Flows, Census 2001
3.51. The largest proportion of people commuting out of the borough work in
London (7,132) and Tonbridge & Malling (6,908), whilst the fewest work in
Ashford (1,201) and Swale (1,050). Those commuting into Maidstone are
predominantly from Medway (8,219) and Tonbridge & Malling (5,398). These
functional economic relationships have an important bearing on the strategy.
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Pockets of Deprivation
3.52. Like in many local authorities across the country, there are deprived
neighbourhoods in Maidstone. The 2007 Index of Multiple Deprivation
(IMD) provides a basis for assessing the extent of deprivation in an area. As
a whole, the borough of Maidstone is relatively less deprived than elsewhere
in the country; ranking 248th out of a total of 355 (where 355th is the least
3.53. However, while Maidstone appears relatively affluent, there are pockets of
deprivation that are a cause for concern. The map below shows that a
number of lower level super output areas (LSOAs) – equivalent to a street or
neighbourhood - fall into the most deprived 20% in the country. The majority
of these appear to be in Park Wood and High Street wards.
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3.54. Park Wood and High Street wards also have significant proportions of NEETs
(individuals Not in Employment, Education or Training). In 2006, 24.1% of
16-18 year olds living in Park Street ward were NEET – the third worst ward
in the Kent County Council region. Similarly, 16.6% of 16-18 year olds in
High Street wards were in no formal education, training or employment21.
These issues will be considered in more detail in the forthcoming Sustainable
KCC Supporting Independence Programme area profile: Maidstone, 2006
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Summary SWOT Analysis
3.55. Reflecting on the current state of the Maidstone economy, the strategy is
built around an understanding of Maidstone‟s strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities and treats, as summarised in the following table.
Thriving town centre and lively night time Relatively low productivity driven by low levels of
economy innovation and a lack of Higher Education provision
Good strategic transport links No sector specialisms
Strong on quality of life factors including Persistent, but improving resident-workplace wage
picturesque rural landscape, good schools, gap
relatively affordable housing & low crime rates Occupation structure weakened by a high proportion
Tight labour market with strong employment of administrative and secretarial jobs
levels, minimal inactivity and low Despite high levels of entrepreneurship, limited
unemployment rates support for start-ups
Some sector strengths in construction, and Shortage of high quality office space
business and professional services Secondary unattractive office space in the town
„Excellent‟ borough council and strong public centre
sector Pockets of Deprivation – and a high proportions of
Evidence of an entrepreneurial spirit and a high NEETs - in Park Wood and High Street wards
business density Traffic congestion and limited accessibility in the
Relatively high resident wages and improving town centre
workplace wages Operation Stack disrupting businesses and residents
Large proportion of residents educated to in the borough
degree level Rail connectivity to London slow and infrequent
Improving schools performance at A*-C GCSE when compared to elsewhere
level Evening economy offer limited for families
Key Tourism assets: Millennium River Park,
Kent countryside, Leeds Castle and the town
Creating distinctiveness and capturing wealth Global competition
through independent retail in the town centre Competition from nearby growth areas and Kings
Increased population and employment levels Hill for inward investment and labour
arising from Growth Point status Relocation of HE institutes and businesses to
Potential sector strengths identified in the elsewhere in the region
media and creative industries, business and CTLR and its impact on the decisions of investors
professional services, retail and leisure, the and workers
rural economy and sustainable construction Limited future investment in the railway
sectors The potential of Kent International Gateway to
Maximising the potential of the river Medway exacerbate the low wage economy, and add to
and enhancing the evening economy offer traffic congestion and destroy the rural landscape
Public services improvement through urban
Meeting the demand for high quality office
Harnessing the borough‟s entrepreneurial spirit
and interest in the media and the creative
Utilising creative and media sector assets,
including UCCA and the Maidstone Studios
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3.56. In summary, the main competitive advantages for Maidstone in relation to
the seven drivers in the competitiveness pyramid are:
Quality of life – high quality public services and a rural setting.
Human capital – residents are relatively highly skilled.
3.57. Conversely, the barriers to growth are:
Specialisms – Maidstone has few sector specialisms contributing to
low levels of innovation;
Connectivity – the lack of high speed rail services to London and
congestion around the borough are disincentives to inward investors;
Innovation – a weak innovation record an under-developed HE sector
and weak links between education and business.
Investment – there is strong market interest in Maidstone but a lack
of high quality sites and premises constrains the success rate (see
Governance structure – while Maidstone has a good local authority,
its capacity to deliver economic development is limited and subregional
governance arrangements are still to be confirmed (see Section 8).
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Analysis of Key
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4. ANALYSIS OF KEY SECTORS
4.1. The Economic Development Strategy must be guided by an informed view of
the sectors with good prospects for growth in Maidstone. We are mindful that
the public sector should not attempt to „pick winners‟; it does not have
privileged information about which sectors of the economy will grow, and
which will not. However there are circumstances in which it makes sense for
interventions to have a sectoral focus, based on considerations of market
failure and/or social and environmental benefits.
4.2. For example, the Leitch Review made it clear that education and training
provision needs to be tailored to employer demand, and this in turn requires
foresight into the sectors and occupations most likely to grow. Similarly,
experience of delivering business support services suggests that, in many
instances, interventions need to take into account their sector or industry
background - clients feel more confident with an adviser or mentor that has
experience and/or understanding of their own situation. Delivering „sector
neutral‟ interventions might therefore carry risks in terms of less effective
delivery through poor take up, lower quality client facing service or reduced
4.3. We devote significant attention to sectors in this report, reflecting the
aspiration among many stakeholders for Maidstone to become a more
distinctive place with sector specialisms. This section therefore aims to
provide the best indications/foresight to inform the strategy.
4.4. A significant proportion of job growth will occur from the planned scale of
population growth. This includes employment growth in: retail and leisure,
local services, and the public sector – including, health, education and public
services. However, future economic prosperity will depend on growth in high
value added sectors, and specifically companies providing goods or services
exported outside the area, where skills, knowledge and innovation give them
a competitive advantage. Our analysis in this chapter focuses on the
Business and professional services;
Retail and leisure;
4.5. These were sectors which emerged for consideration from our data analysis
and from interviews with stakeholders. Each is considered in turn below in
national growth forecasts;
regional growth forecasts;
existing jobs/firms in Maidstone;
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recent growth performance in Maidstone;
sector support activities provided by SEEDA and Locate in Kent; and
4.6. We conclude by identifying the sectors which should be prioritised for the
strategy. In Chapter 6A, we go on to identify the interventions that could be
pursued to support their growth.
Business and Professional Services
4.7. Business and professional services covers an array of predominantly office-
based activities such as: legal, real estate, IT, accountancy, consultancy,
architecture, etc. A town of Maidstone‟s size, county town status, and
strategic position should be attractive to professional and business services
companies serving local, regional and national markets.
4.8. Nationally, the financial and business services sector continues to experience
long term growth, reflecting the UK‟s competitive advantage and the
emergence of London as a global centre for financial and business services.
Looking forward, the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts
that business services employment will account for an even larger share of
total employment in the UK and this view is shared by other forecasting
4.9. Levels of employment growth are likely to vary across the sector in the
coming years, with the IT, advertising and legal sectors expected to perform
well according to CEBR. Job growth in the architecture and engineering
sectors should be sustained by a robust construction industry. The South
East is well placed to capture growth in the sector. It has 24 universities and
Higher Education Institutions supplying over 76,000 graduates per annum.
Over 10,000 of these graduates studied Business or Administration, just
under 4,000 studied Law and a similar number studied Computer Sciences.
Indeed the South East is the leading UK region for IT skills with a fifth of the
UK IT workforce - 513,000 adults have technical IT skills and of those
331,000 have advanced programming skills.
4.10. Business services companies, as the name suggests, rely on a large vibrant
business stock to service, and a healthy demand for their products and
services. The Greater South East provides a massive and expanding market
for Maidstone business and professional services companies. Population and
housing growth should also act as a stimulus for growth of the local
professional services sector, raising demand for legal, architectural,
accountancy services, etc23.
4.11. Maidstone has many of the attributes that appeal to business and
professional services companies. It is close to London – one of the world‟s
business and financial centres – and is well served by the road network and
has a direct rail link to the capital. Maidstone‟s proximity to the M20 is
See Forecasting Eye: A regular briefing for business planners, June 2007, Jaspreet Sehmi, centre for
economics and business research
In contrast, the dominance of the public sector in Maidstone may mean that demand for business
services is weaker in Maidstone than elsewhere.
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particularly attractive to companies needing access to markets in Kent and
the Greater South East. The borough also has a pool of highly skilled
residents; competitive office rental rates; and the town centre provides
access to local services and amenities.
4.12. As a result of these strategic assets, and its civic and administrative role,
Maidstone has a relatively healthy professional services sector. The borough
is home to medium sized companies such as ASB Law, Towergate Insurance
and DHA Planning Consultants and many other SMEs. The Crown, County
and Magistrates Courts are obviously a key draw to the legal sector.
4.13. These trends are reflected in the data; in terms of both total employment
and the number of firms, Maidstone has one of the largest professional and
business services sectors in Kent. As the figure below illustrates Maidstone
along with Ashford, has the largest number of firms in Kent. All boroughs in
Kent have seen a steady increase in the number of firms since 1998, and
Maidstone has marginally outperformed its neighbours.
Number of firms working in Business and Professional Services Source: ABI
4.14. Examining employment, just under 11,000 people are employed in the sector
according to latest estimates, significantly more than other local authorities
in Kent. A large drop in employment was recorded in 2005-6, which warrants
further monitoring, but may be accounted for by a change in the way ABI
data is collected.
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Number employed in Business and Professional Services Source: ABI
4.15. Locate in Kent – the inward investment and promotional agency for Kent and
Medway - has identified financial and business services as one of its seven
key sectors. It has supported the attraction and retention of a number of
businesses such as ASB law, CFA Marketing Communications and Svenska
Handelbanken AB. The Agency has identified that by far the largest number
of companies attracted to Maidstone are in the business and professional
services sector, with the borough attracting proportionally twice as many as
the average in Kent and Medway24.
4.16. However, Maidstone‟s strength in business and professional services should
not be over-stated. Kent as a whole underperforms in this sector thus
exaggerating Maidstone‟s performance. In a South East context, the picture
is somewhat different. Of the 7,175 firms based in Maidstone, 30% (2,150)
are in the „real estate, renting and business‟ sector. This proportion is below
the South East average (35%) and marginally below the GB average. In
terms of employment, the proportion of employment in the borough is 15%,
also below South East (20%) and GB (17%) averages. Thus, for a town of its
size and status, relative to national and regional averages Maidstone is
arguably under-represented in professional and business services in a
4.17. Overall, we conclude that despite under representation at a regional level,
there are good prospects for growth of business and professional services, if
the right conditions are put in place. See Chapter 6A.
Retail and leisure
4.18. Nationally, the retail and leisure sectors make a significant contribution to
the economy and to the regeneration of towns, providing an outlet for
retaining expenditure in the local economy. Retail plays an important part in
the look and feel of the modern High Street, and can act as a catalyst for
Locate in Kent research, Maidstone Scrutiny Committee, February 2008
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regeneration. It also provides valuable employment, offering a gateway into
the workplace for socially excluded groups.
4.19. Maidstone has a vibrant town centre, which has improved significantly over
the last decade, and now provides a diverse retail and leisure offer. In the
face of growing competition, notably from the emergence of large out of
town retail parks such as Bluewater, Maidstone has performed well. It is
ranked as one of the top fifty shopping destinations in the UK according to
Retail Footprint 2007, and has been ranked as a Top 10 retail centre for
shopping yield in the SEEDA region. Experian‟s 2017 Future Face of Retail
rankings also placed Maidstone as the 38th top retail location in 2007, and
forecasted that the centre would remain in this position in 2017.
4.20. Maidstone has more than 700 shops, two department stores, over 75 cafes
and restaurants25 covering some 145,000 square metres of retail floor space.
According to Kent County Council‟s Retail Health Indicators, the town centre
itself employs 4,423 individuals – surpassing the majority of boroughs in
4.21. Average footfall statistics show an increase of 39% between 2001 and
200527. This has largely been driven by Fremlin Walk, a 50 store space and
800 multi-storey car park situated on an old Kentish brewery site. Not only
has this attracted high quality retailers to Maidstone, it is also felt to have
improved both residents‟ and outsiders‟ perceptions of the town.
4.22. Survey work by the Federation of Small Business and Town Centre
Management suggests there are a large number of independent retailers.
According to this survey, there are 252 independent retailers in Maidstone
out of 475 available units. This is seen as an asset by stakeholders and one
which needs to be developed if Maidstone is to develop a distinctive retail
offer which distinguishes it from other towns and, in turn, capture higher
value expenditure from wealthy local residents who would otherwise shop
4.23. Maidstone has a reputation as having a lively night time economy and
attracts people from a wide area. In 2006, 37,166 square metres of evening
economy space were recorded in Maidstone – significantly more than any
other town centre in the county28. Consequently, the night time economy is
a major employer and generator of economic activity. However, the market
is largely focused on the activities of young people. This is thought by some
to create a hostile environment for families, and there are calls in some
quarters for a more diverse evening offer.
4.24. This was also the conclusion of consultants Bone & Wells Associates who
were commissioned by the Borough Council in December 2006 to review the
night time economy in Maidstone. Despite the limited offer, the consultants
found that the sector makes a major economic contribution, providing 1,500
Maidstone exceeds all other town centres in Kent on retail floorspace. Only Canterbury has a higher
footfall and only Tunbridge Wells has higher retail employment (2005 figures). Kent County Council Retail
Health Indicators, 2006
Kent County Council Retail Health Indicators, 2006
Kent County Council Retail Health Indicators, 2006
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4.25. There is good collaborative work between public authorities and retailers to
keep the town centre safe and an attractive place to visit. The Town Centre
Management (TCM) plays a key role, and has helped to instigate a number
of community safety schemes such as Maidsafe. TCM also plays an important
role in marketing the town, maintaining the public realm, organising events
and festivals, undertaking research, and offering expertise on the future
development of the town centre.
4.26. Overall, there are good prospects for further growth of the retail and leisure
sector. Population growth in the borough and neighbouring Growth Areas
should increase footfall, and this is reflected in Experian‟s forecasts.
4.27. The creative industries sit at the crossroads between the arts, business and
technology, and are defined by the UK Creative Industries Taskforce as
“those industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent
and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the
generation and exploitation of intellectual property”29.
4.28. According to a recent report by the Work Foundation for DCMS, “the UK has
the largest creative sector in the EU, and relative to GDP probably the largest
in the world”. Creative and cultural industries play an increasingly important
role in economic life and almost all commentators expect this to continue.
The London creative sector is the dominant force in the UK.
4.29. Whilst traditionally creative industries were valued for their cultural influence,
the sector now also makes a critical economic contribution. The sector
contributes 8% of the UK‟s GVA and provides 1.8 million jobs30. Nationally,
the creative industries are experiencing significant growth. The sector grew
by an average of 5% per annum between 1997 and 2004 (2% above the
4.30. Growth of the sector is being driven by demand for creative products and
services in both specialist and mainstream business, supported by public
investment, and helped by London‟s position as a global creative
4.31. The Creative Sector is well developed in the South East, with established
business clusters in a number of sub sectors, including games development,
film production and software design. According to SEEDA, there are
approximately 163,000 employees working in the Creative Industries sector
in the South East32. Creative businesses in the region are largely small
businesses or sole traders and the self-employed.
4.32. In „Creative South East‟, recently commissioned by SEEDA33, three business
clusters were identified in the region: digital corporate media in Brighton &
UK Creative Industries Task Force, 1997
Source: Nesta (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, 2006
Creative Industries Economic Estimates Statistical Bulletin, September 2006, Department for Culture,
Media and Sport
32 Creative South East Report, September 2006, SEEDA
33 The People Factor: Media clusters and supply chains in the South East
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Hove; publishing in Oxford; and film and TV production in Shepperton. Other
strengths highlighted included: video games; animation; advertising and
corporate media; film and media; music; and publishing.
4.33. At present, two of the twenty Enterprise Hubs located in the South East
focus on the creative industries sector and offer flexible work space – High
Wycombe and Slough. There are also several innovation centres in the
South East that encourage the development of creative companies by
offering flexible work space, including the Brighton Media Centre. The cluster
in Brighton & Hove employs around 3,000 people compared to an estimated
1,000 people in Kent.
4.34. The South East Media Network brings together five regional organisations
(including Wired Kent) supporting media and communications companies in
the South East, and acting as a gateway to over 3,000 media businesses in
the South East. Moreover, South East universities produce a steady supply
of Creative graduates – 6,300 in 2003/0434. In addition, many of the
universities offer consultancy services and work directly with businesses in
4.35. Compiling reliable data on the creative industries sector is notoriously
problematic, in part because definitions of the sector vary and also because
companies are often very small and not picked up in official figures.
4.36. At the county level, Locate In Kent reports significant market interest from
the media production sector, and it is actively promoting its development.
Research by OC Consulting on behalf of Locate in Kent identified Kent as
supporting a cluster of some 300 companies in Media and Production
employing around 1,000 people. The county has two production studios and
a film office, and is a focus for research of a number of universities across
the county. Kent is attractive to companies because of its competitive
location with relatively affordable rents, a good supply of skilled graduates
and professionals, and the benefit of easy access to London.
Source: HESA, 2005
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Source: Locate in Kent
4.37. The chart above identifies two particularly large clusters: radio and
television activities and motion picture and video distribution. In
recognition of this, a network called Media Tree was established with funding
from SEEDA via the Channel Corridor Partnership. Formerly run by Business
Link, the network is due to be re-launched by a private company.
4.38. OC Consulting reported that Maidstone contributes significantly to the Kent
cluster, notably in the form of Maidstone Studios. Built in 1982, Maidstone
Studios is a key asset for the borough. The Studios provides complete media
production services including post production, crewing and transmission.
Current clients including Disney, BBC, itv.com and endemol. The Studios‟
activities are clearly an asset to the local community; the company‟s ethos is
to embed a culture of media and the creative arts in Maidstone by
encouraging young people from local schools and the university to consider
the creative industries as a career route. The studio receives applications
from over 6,000 people each year for work experience.
4.39. Another obvious strength in Maidstone is the University College for the
Creative Arts (UCCA) whose alumni include Tracey Emin, Zandra Rhodes
and Karen Millen. The college was formed through the merger of The Surrey
Institute of Art & Design, University College and the Kent Institute of Art &
Design in 2005. Based across five campuses, of which Maidstone is one, the
university is one of the UK‟s leading institutions for the arts, media and
design. Traditionally, the university in Maidstone has specialised in media,
moving images, photographics and introduced one of the first media courses
nationally in the 1960s. It also has a tradition of print making, illustration
and graphics. UCCA has developed a close relationship with the Media
4.40. In order to promote creative and cultural activities in Maidstone, the Council
has recently been promoting the Creative Maidstone brand. It also seeks to
promote public art in the town centre.
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4.41. While Maidstone Studios and UCCA are clearly major assets, on their own
they do not represent a cluster or specialism. For that, we need to be able to
identify a critical mass of companies, and the evidence for this is somewhat
mixed. Gavurin Ltd undertook a review of the official data (see State of the
Economy report) on creative industries in Maidstone using the DCMS
definition of the sector and corresponding SIC codes. According to the data,
Maidstone exhibits some relative strength in three industries – „radio and
television activities‟, „publishing of journals and periodicals‟, and „other
publishing‟. However, the number of people employed appears modest.
4.42. The question is, does the recoded data on Maidstone‟s creative industries
represent the reality on the ground? Gavurin examined four examples: film
and TV production, web design, graphic design and software and searched
both its own database and also Yellow Pages. It found employment numbers
to be modest where they are identified. Thus, based on the official data and
DCMS definition, the extent to which a critical mass of companies exists in
Maidstone is inconclusive35.
4.43. While the data is inconclusive, we are cautiously optimistic that the creative
and media sector could grow if Maidstone can capitalise on the presence of
the UCCA and the Media Studios. These opportunities are explored in Section
4.44. Nationally, rural industries have changed significantly; traditional activities –
such as farming, mining, and seaside tourism – are no longer the main
sources of employment and have now been largely replaced by
manufacturing and service sector jobs36. As a result, the mix of employment
sectors in rural areas largely mirrors the composition of sectors across
England as a whole.
4.45. Despite similarities in their make up, economic performance in the most rural
areas still lags behind that of urban vicinities. According to the Defra report,
„Productivity in Rural England‟, this is largely due to access and proximity to
a critical mass of economic activity in urban areas, raising productivity
through knowledge transfer, thickening labour markets and improved access
to consumers and suppliers‟. The view is that more isolated rural areas in
Britain have a more restricted choice of jobs; limited training opportunities;
difficulties in accessing public transport; and greater reliance on informal
networks for finding jobs.
4.46. SEEDA has acknowledged the importance of the rural economy in the South
East and a number of regional initiatives are outlined in the RES to support
rural areas. The Agency states it will:
support initiatives that integrate local demand and supply of energy,
with energy efficiency, building on exemplar projects in the region;
Mapping of the sector in Maidstone has been undertaken but the source has thus far not
been verified. Similarly, we have been unable to obtain analysis of those Maidstone companies
that are part of the Media Tree network.
Productivity in Rural England, November 2005, Rural Economics Unit for the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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stimulate rural enterprise and nurture new and existing businesses
based on good market intelligence, making use of networks,
collaborations and co-operatives and centres of excellence;
support the development of home-based businesses, particularly
targeting rural and women owned businesses;
explore and support the potential for new crops for industry (including
biofuels and bioenergy); and
exploit the potential for real premium products through „added value‟;
develop and adopt good quality standards; become closer to markets
and make best use of opportunities in London and other urban and
rural markets on the doorstep.
4.47. Furthermore, SEEDA is now responsible for the delivery of the Rural
Development Plan for England (representing £30 million in additional EU
funding over the Corporate Plan period). This money is targeted at support
for capital projects and training for farmers, growers, foresters, food
businesses and rural communities.
4.48. Part of their current work to promote the growth of rural economies is the
Farm Diversification Grant (FDG) Scheme, which was started in May 2000 as
a one-year pilot. It continues today to provide grant aid of up to 25% of the
costs of conversion or refurbishment (subject to a minimum grant of £2,500
and a maximum of £60,000) to uses outside of Primary Agricultural
Production. In the past buildings have been converted to a variety of uses -
light industrial/workshops, office accommodation, self-catering and B&B
accommodation, children‟s nursery and stables / livery.
4.49. Maidstone as a whole is „significantly rural‟ by 2005 Local Authority District
Classifications and a large number of its residents live on the fringes of urban
areas and in villages. It is part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty. The larger rural towns and villages in Maidstone include
Harrietsham, Headcorn, Lenham, Marden and Staplehurst, servicing many
smaller surrounding villages. The Council is in the process of completing work
relating to the settlement hierarchy with the role and function of the „Rural
Service Centres‟ expected to be strengthened through judicious
development. The LDF Core Strategy Preferred Options document highlights
the importance of these „vital and viable‟ rural locations.
4.50. The borough‟s rural towns and villages support a large number of rural and
agricultural businesses. At just under 30% of all firms, Maidstone has a
larger proportion of businesses in this sector than both the region and
national averages, and therefore making an important contribution to the
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Chart 60, Source: Gavurin,
4.51. The graph below illustrating that rural areas in Maidstone contain a large
proportion of service and manufacturing firms. Although these numerous
businesses are varied, the data below shows that construction is a significant
rural industry. Other important industries include „other business activities‟
and „hotels and restaurants‟.
Top Rural Industries by 2 digit SIC Source: DEFRA, Gavurin
4.52. Thus, we conclude that the rural economy is an important part of the
Maidstone economy and opportunities to develop the sector should be
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4.53. In the coming years, the construction industry will face the twin challenge of
massive demand for new housing, and the need for sustainable techniques
and designs. The Government has set ambitious house building targets –
outlined in the Housing Green Paper in July 2007 – of 240,000 homes per
annum by 2016.
4.54. Overall the built environment is responsible for 47% of carbon emissions
while the construction industry consumes vast amounts of resources
annually. If the Government‟s target of a 60% reduction in the 1990 level of
emissions by 2050 is to be achieved, the construction industry must play a
4.55. This drive towards greater resource efficiency and more sustainable patterns
of living is creating a growing demand for new environmentally-sustainable
designs and construction techniques. This drive is being led by central
government departments – including CLG and the BERR – who are trying to
bring the government‟s commitment to sustainable development to bear on
the construction industry. The drive is also being led by regional
development agencies, English Partnerships and the Housing Corporation.
4.56. “During the last 30 years of the 20th century house-building rates have
halved while the number of households grew by 30 per cent. As housing
accounts for 27 per cent of carbon emissions, we need to substantially cut
emissions from new homes and work towards zero carbon housing and
development.” (Eco-towns Prospectus, July 2007, Department for
Communities and Local Government38)
4.57. The Government has set out a clear timetable for the progressive tightening
of building regulations in 2010 and 2013, with the aim of making all new
homes zero carbon by 201639. This timetable will be supported by Planning
Policy Statements (including the statement on Climate Change), stamp duty
relief for zero carbon homes and the „Code for Sustainable Homes‟ (a housing
efficiency rating system for developers). The Government is also planning to
build 10 eco-towns nationwide, which will be towns employing the best new
design and architecture to create zero carbon developments.
4.58. In April 2007, the Code for Sustainable Homes replaced BRE‟s Ecohomes for
the assessment of new housing in England. The code provides a benchmark
for new homes offering guidance on the construction of high performance
homes built with sustainability in mind. It contains mandatory performance
levels in six key areas – energy efficiency/ CO2, water efficiency, surface
water management, site waste management, household waste management
and use of materials – measured through reviews at two stages – design and
4.59. In addition, the government is in the process of developing the Sustainable
Construction Strategy, which will be launched in summer 2008. This will
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demonstrate joint commitment by Government and industry to a step change
in performance on sustainability over the years ahead40.
4.60. The South East, and Kent & Medway in particular, is expected to see a huge
increase in the construction of homes and infrastructure in the coming years.
This provides a major opportunity for Kent to develop leading edge skills and
knowledge in quality and contemporary design, renewable and micro energy
generation, and sustainable construction. Kent Prospects 2007-2012, the
economic development strategy for the county, draws attention to these
4.61. SEEDA has also set down some guiding principles to ensure its own activities
support the sustainability agenda. All SEEDA-funded developments will
achieve Ecohomes/ BREEAM „excellent‟ standard as a minimum, aspiring to
higher standards of sustainability, including zero carbon development, where
possible. Its own direct developments and those with which it is associated
will incorporate water-saving and water-efficient technology, including trials
of new technologies. The Agency will „support and facilitate the creation of
demonstrator Resource Recovery Parks, housing clusters of businesses which
extract maximum value from waste‟. It is now developing proposals for a
new Institute of Sustainability in the Thames Gateway.
4.62. Clearly, these regional activities have the potential to benefit construction
companies in Maidstone. According to the most recent data from the Annual
Business Inquiry, Maidstone has a significantly higher proportion of firms in
the construction sector than South East and Great Britain averages (see SOE
report p.25, chart 2). The construction sector comprises some 15% of all
firms in the borough and plays an important role in the rural economy in
Maidstone (see previous section).
4.63. Anecdotally, local stakeholders have suggested that there are „world class‟
construction companies in Maidstone and significant potential for growth.
However, the Council, together with SEEDA need to undertake a more
rigorous dialogue with these companies to understand where there may be
opportunities for local companies to exploit.
4.64. The Council has already stated through its draft LDF policies that it intends to
take a lead role in promoting sustainable development, and it is leading by
example through its own activities. The Council‟s new offices are being built
using sustainable construction techniques – and provide an opportunity to
showcase local talent in the sector. The Council is keen to build on these
attributes and is aiming to become a „greener‟ „sustainable‟ local authority
and gain beacon status by 2010.
4.65. Therefore, we conclude there are good prospects for growth of the
construction sector in Maidstone, particularly related to demand for new
sustainable construction techniques.
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The Public Sector
4.66. Public sector employment accounts for 1 in 5 of all jobs in the UK. From June
1998 to June 2005 the number of public sector employees increased faster
than the private sector, rising by 13.2 percent (680,000) compared to 5.7
percent (1,241,000). The largest increases in public sector employment
between 1998 and 2005 were in health and social work (an increase of
300,000 employees) and education (up by 224,000), with public
administration (128,000) and police services (45,000) also receiving
4.67. The last year for which figures are available saw slower growth, with public
sector employment increasing by 95,000 between June 2004 and June 2005,
whereas 113,000 new jobs had been created in the previous year to June
2004. This is part of a wider reduction in the increase in public spending that
was extended in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review. However,
overall, growth reflects the substantial investment made by the current
Labour Government in the public sector over the last ten years. Looking
forward, even with a change of administration, it seems unlikely that there
will be significant cuts in public sector employment.
4.68. As the county town for Kent, the public sector is a major employer in
Maidstone. In addition to Maidstone Borough Council, the sector includes
Kent County Council, Kent NHS, Police and Fire brigade. There are currently
23,600 people employed in public administration, education and defence –
32.9% of all jobs – according to Annual Business Inquiry (2006).
4.69. Maidstone has a good reputation for providing quality public services. In
2004, Maidstone Borough Council was assessed as being an „excellent‟
council under the Audit Commission‟s Comprehensive Assessment (CPA). The
assessment cited strong leadership, good working relationships with partners
and particular strengths in cleanliness and recycling41. High quality public
services – schools, hospitals and Council services - are an important factor in
attracting high skilled workers. Therefore, it will be important for Maidstone
to build on this strength.
4.70. While the proliferation of employment in the public sector is a reason for the
relatively low wage levels of employees in Maidstone, the sector employment
provides valuable employment for residents and is a key part of the vision to
create a 21st Century County Town. Therefore, looking forward, we conclude
that the public sector will continue to be an important employer in Maidstone.
4.71. The Council is now finalising a tourism strategy to develop the tourism sector
in Maidstone. Therefore, we have not undertaken a comprehensive audit of
the sector. According to Council figures, Maidstone receives 2.5 million day
visitors and 400,000 staying visitors per year. Total visitor expenditure is
£142 million a year.42 Leeds Castle in particular draws tourists to the area,
whilst shopping and museum activities in the town centre, the new
Comprehensive Performance Assessment, Maidstone Borough Council, 2004
Maidstone Tourism Strategy Forum, 18th January 2008
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Millennium River Park and the Kent countryside are also key assets.
Therefore, in keeping with the Council‟s aspirations, we consider tourism to
be a key sector for Maidstone.
4.72. Over the last half a century, deindustrialisation has changed the face of the
UK economy, resulting in a progressive shift to service sector activities and
an absolute decline in manufacturing employment. This trend has continued
over the last ten years. According to the Annual Business Inquiry, the
number of British enterprises and the number of employees in the
manufacturing sector in 1998 stood at 184,000 and 4 million respectively. By
2006 this had dropped to 163,000 enterprises and to around 3 million
4.73. Looking to the future, almost 30,000 jobs are expected to be lost in the
South East over the period from 2004 to 201443. This represents a rate of
loss of 0.7 percent per annum. The average fall for both England and the UK
is expected to be around 1.1 per cent per annum. Engineering is projected
to see the largest decline in jobs (-14,000), with smaller losses in food, drink
& tobacco (-2,000).
4.74. During the Visioning Workshop participants described Maidstone a quarter of
a century ago as a typical „manufacturing town‟; recalling the decline of
manufacturing in the borough as one of the most significant drivers of
change. Today Maidstone‟s manufacturing sector is relatively small. The
proportion of employees in the sector (6.7%) is below both the South East
and Great British averages.
Proportion of employment in manufacturing (1998-2006)
20.0 Great Britain
15.0 Medway Towns
Tonbridge and Malling
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Working Futures 2004-2014: Spatial Report, Skills for Business, 2004
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4.75. While manufacturing employment will continue to decline across the UK, it
remains a vital part of the UK economy, accounting for over half of the UK‟s
exports and around three quarters of business research and development.
The boundary between manufacturing and services is becoming increasingly
blurred. For every factory producing machine tools, there is demand for
collaboration with designers, software specialists, financial experts, caterers
and other service providers. As a result, manufacturing has developed into a
more knowledge-intensive, innovative sector.
4.76. Maidstone does not have a reputation for high tech manufacturing. From our
discussions with stakeholders and analysis of the data, there is not a
critical mass of manufacturing companies in the borough. Based
purely on the data, Maidstone does appear to have a concentration of
companies working in the manufacture of plastics and forest products
relative to national averages but in absolute terms both sectors are small44.
4.77. Thus, given the overall low proportion of employment in manufacturing in
Maidstone and only limited evidence that it supports a critical mass of
knowledge intensive sub-sectors, we conclude that manufacturing should not
be a priority for the economic development strategy. Of course, the Council
should continue to ensure it provides sufficient industrial premises to meet
prospective demand as described in the Employment Land Study.
Logistics and Distribution
4.78. Globalisation and the removal of international barriers to trade have led to an
increase in trade and distribution between countries, and subsequently the
expansion of distribution, logistics and warehousing activities. While
historically, many large companies in the UK have provided their own
transport link in the distribution chain through their own transport fleets, this
function is increasingly contracted out to specialist transport companies. As
a result, more companies specifically tailored to service the logistics and
distribution needs of larger firms have emerged.
4.79. Kent is strategically positioned to take advantage of this expanding and
changing sector, particularly for serving the North European market place. It
is the closest UK county to mainland Europe, and home to six seaports, an
international airport, shuttle and freight train services and well connected
motorways. Kent already has a strong transport and distribution sector.
According to Locate in Kent, there are 2,400 companies employing some
35,000 people – this makes the sector a major contributor to the economy.
4.80. There are 160 freight forwarding companies in Kent including 5 of the top 10
freight forwarders in the UK. Kent also has a significant number of road
haulage companies including Christian Salvesen, Wincanton and Tibbett &
Brittain (Locate in Kent, 2008). One of the county‟s main growth areas in rail
freight is international freight; there are already 15 railway transportation
companies employing around 2,000 people, and Kent‟s position will be
further strengthened by CTLR High Speed 1. In 2003 some, 18.4 million
tonnes of freight were transported via the Channel Tunnel.
See State of the Economy Report.
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4.81. Looking to the future, the sector is expected to continue to grow in the UK.
Environmental concerns will also be more prevalent and may lead to added
constraints on the use of road vehicles for the carriage of freight.
Developments in IT will continue to open up market opportunities for
companies in the distribution sector and will provide ways to support their
operations (e.g. improved methods of communication with suppliers, actual
and potential customers, and operatives).
4.82. Maidstone is an attractive location for logistics and distribution companies
because of its proximity to the motorway and the channel corridor. Analysis
of the industrial estates in the borough by GVA Grimley suggests a healthy
warehousing and distribution sector with low vacancy levels. However, there
is a debate about the quality of jobs it offers; proponents argue that the
sector is becoming increasingly technology driven and hence requires higher
skills, whereas opponents argue that jobs are unskilled and low density and
will not address the low wage issue in Maidstone.
4.83. The proposed rail freight depot at Junction 8 in Maidstone, Kent International
Gateway (see appendix), illustrates the arguments for and against the
expansion of the warehousing sector. The KIG proposal is a major Strategic
Rail Freight Interchange, together with large scale warehousing, which is one
of several sites being considered in the South East. If KIG is granted consent
it is probable that it will have a significant impact on the direction of
Economic Development and land use planning in the borough. As such, this
Strategy may need to be reappraised if KIG is given the go ahead because of
the impact it will have on commercial and residential development, which
may take the borough in a different direction to that set out in this
4.84. The Council and a number of partners have reservations that KIG may make
it difficult to deliver the objectives set out in this document. The Council is
concerned that there is insufficient supply of labour to meet prospective
demand and that workers commuting from outside the borough will put
additional strain on the transport network. Moreover, there are concerns
about the environmental impact KIG will have, in terms of pollution,
congestion and the impact on the landscape.
4.85. In conclusion, in the South East region there is clearly market demand and
capacity for growth in the logistics sector. However, we do not consider it
should be a priority sector for this Economic Development Strategy because
it does not align with the economic vision prepared with stakeholders and
because of the Council‟s view on the relative low wage rates associated with
warehouse development, and the tendency for it to require large sites
generating low employment densities. Of course the Council should continue
to ensure through its planning functions, an adequate supply of industrial
and warehouse sites and premises to support the organic growth of the
sector to meet demand.
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Summary of Sectors Analysis
4.86. The matrix below uses a traffic light system to summarise the strengths and
weaknesses in each sector based on the information described above.
Re al e
Re g c
Retail and leisure
4.87. In summary, from the analysis above we conclude that the Council should
proceed with its economic development and planning functions on the basis
of supporting growth in: professional and business services; retail and
leisure; media/creative; rural industries; construction; the public sector; and
tourism. Actions to support the growth of these sectors are considered in
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The Economic Vision
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5. MAIDSTONE IN 2028: VISION AND OBJECTIVES
5.1. Growth Point status provides an opportunity for Maidstone to think big, to
raise aspirations around a new growth orientated vision, and to establish a
clear direction of travel. As part of the process for preparing the strategy,
Shared Intelligence facilitated a visioning event with over 40 stakeholders
employing scenario planning techniques.
5.2. The economic vision for the borough agreed at the workshop with
stakeholders is described below. The Vision sits alongside the spatial vision
set out in the LDF Core Strategy Preferred Options document (see Appendix).
Maidstone in 2028: The Economic Vision
5.3. At the workshop, alternative scenarios for the future shape of the Maidstone
economy were developed. From the preferred scenario, the following vision
was drawn up and agreed with stakeholders.
“In 2028, Maidstone is a model „21st century county town‟, a distinctive place, known
for its blend of sustainable rural and urban living, excellence in public services, vibrant
service sector-based economy, and above all, quality of life.
Highly skilled, wealthy people continue to be attracted to the borough to live; while
many commute out to work in London or elsewhere in Kent, more and more work in
the town centre, in the surrounding rural centres, or from home. In the evenings and
at weekends, residents choose to spend their money in Maidstone because of its
unique, high quality retail and leisure offer.
The centre of town truly is „a great place to visit, a great place to shop‟; people come
to Maidstone for its mix of high street and independent shopping outlets. Maidstone
could never be called a clone town with its boutiques, high fashion outlets, and choice
of organic retailers. Maidstone has moved even higher up the retail rankings. In the
evenings the town centre comes alive; a safe place for families out for an evening at
the theatre, the new concert hall, or the many restaurants; young people from all over
Kent come to Maidstone because of the famous nightlife.
A culture of lifelong learning has been embedded in Maidstone in recognition of the
importance of education and skills. Young people leave school with the qualifications
they need to succeed in life. The further and higher education sectors have expanded;
the University College of the Creative Arts (UCCA) now has its largest campus in
Maidstone and is actively involved in day-to-day life. Vocational and community-based
learning opportunities are aligned with the needs of local employers.
Environmental sustainability underpins everything we do in Maidstone – the local
authority is leading by example as it has done for many years and is the first carbon
neutral council in the country. Our local businesses are exploiting the challenges and
opportunities of global climate change. Continual investment in the road network over
the last 20 years means traffic now flows freely in and out of Maidstone; but more and
more people are choosing to leave their cars at home or at the Park and Ride car
parks, and instead take the bus, walk or cycle. Express rail services now run to
London, providing an important economic stimulus.
Maidstone is a by-word for excellence in public services, home to the highly respected
borough and county councils, leading schools, further and higher education providers,
and first class health services. New residential development in the town centre and in
the urban extension brought yet more highly skilled people to the borough and
provided the impetus for new investment in public services.
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SEEDA has identified Maidstone as a diamond of growth in recognition of the fact that
the borough is now a major driver of growth in the Greater South East. The Maidstone
Economic Partnership was highly influential in this decision. Like any county town, a
large proportion of employment is still in the public sector, and as a booming shopping
destination, the retail sector is also a key employer. However, alongside this, more
knowledge-intensive businesses are visible in Maidstone - a thriving business and
professional services sector has emerged, including many firms serving markets
beyond the boundaries of Maidstone.
The creative and media sector has grown rapidly in the last 20 years - the University
College of the Creative Arts (UCCA) and Mid-Kent College are nationally renowned
centres of excellence. The Media Studios produce even more nationally acclaimed
programmes. Graduates are leaving university and setting up their own businesses in
the new Maidstone Enterprise Centre, taking advantage of incubation space, virtual
offices, and other high tech facilities. Our rural communities are important community
and commercial centres in their own right. They are a major part of our tourism offer,
which also includes Leeds Castle and the riverside in Maidstone town centre.
Maidstone has a clear and distinctive offer to investors; they know that for the cachet
of being in a county town, good connectivity, a ready supply of high quality affordable
office space, a pool of creative skilled labour, and good work-life balance, then
Maidstone is the place to be.”
5.4. The vision translates into 10 key objectives which provide the driving force
for the rest of the strategy:
10 Key Objectives
1. Strengthen the town centre – create a higher quality retail and leisure offer
to attract and retain more expenditure in the borough.
2. Attract more knowledge-intensive service sector-based companies,
ensuring a steady pipeline of high quality sites for commercial
3. Develop a more distinctive local economy with sector specialisms –
professional and business services, creative and media sector, public sector,
construction, and tourism.
4. Embed a culture of lifelong learning and ensure providers respond to the
needs of employers.
5. Support the expansion of the HE sector through UCCA and Mid Kent
College, and retain graduates in the borough to raise skills and foster
6. Develop a more entrepreneurial and innovative local economy.
7. Improve the transport network to underpin economic growth, enhancing
access in and around the town centre and to local, regional and national
8. Enable rural towns and villages to develop as economic centres.
9. Embed principles of environmental sustainability in public sector
actions to combat climate change, and support companies in Maidstone to
exploit the economic opportunities.
10. Improve business engagement by establishing an economic partnership
to take forward the economic development strategy.
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6. THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
6.1. Turning the economic vision for Maidstone into reality and delivering the 10
objectives requires a clear strategy and Action Plan for the Council and
partners to take forward. Public sector interventions should be in an enabling
capacity where there is market failure in order to create the conditions for
growth. There is already a significant agenda for change being pursued by
the Council as part of the development of the LDF and the Sustainable
Community Strategy, and at county and regional level through Kent C.C and
SEEDA. It is essential that the strategy aligns with these other policy
6.2. The Strategy is structured around enhancing the seven drivers of
competitiveness described in the competitiveness pyramid. In this section we
consider actions to strengthen the following five drivers:
A. Developing Specialisms: Priority Sectors;
B. Creating a more Innovative and Entrepreneurial Economy;
C. Attracting and Retaining Investment;
D. Developing A Culture of Lifelong Learning: Human Capital; and
E. Transport and Connectivity.
6.3. Captured in all of the above is the sixth driver of competitiveness „quality of
life‟ - the need to create high quality living and working environments and a
standard of living that will attract highly skilled workers and knowledge
intensive businesses. The seventh driver - Governance arrangements - is
discussed in Section 8.
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A. Developing Specialisms: Priority Sectors
A.1. Developing a more specialised economy will be key to
improving the competitiveness of the Maidstone
economy, and was identified as a key part of the
A.2. In Section 4, we identified seven priority sectors for supported:
the Maidstone economy:
Business and professional services; Strengthen the town
Retail and leisure; centre
Creative and Media; Objective 2:
Sustainable Construction; Ensure a steady
supply of high
The Rural Economy; quality employment
Public sector; and
Tourism. Objective 5:
Expand the HE
A.3. Business and professional services, and retail and
leisure, already account for a significant proportion of Objective 6:
jobs in the borough and should continue to grow if the Support start ups
right conditions are put in place. Critically, the Council and foster
has a key enabling role to play through the LDF and innovation.
most significantly plans for the town centre. The
public sector is an important employer in Maidstone,
fundamental to Maidstone‟s civic and administrative development of
role and therefore the vision to create a 21st Century rural towns and
County Town. Population growth in Maidstone and villages.
Kent as a whole should mean this continues to be an
important sector for the borough.
A.4. The creative and media sector, sustainable construction, the rural economy,
and tourism are smaller components of the economy but sectors where there
is a strong aspiration or policy drive for growth together, and some local
assets on which to build. Each sector is considered in more detail below.
Business and Professional Services
A.5. In Section 3 we concluded that there are opportunities for the expansion of
professional and business services in Maidstone. Likewise, developing this
sector is a key part of the vision to become a 21st century county town. From
our research and interviews with stakeholders, in order to support the growth
of professional and business services we recommend the Council focuses its
efforts on two areas:
ensuring a steady supply of high quality office accommodation; and
supporting the development of business networks, including the
activities of the Professional Hub.
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A.6. A very clear message from public and private sector stakeholders in
Maidstone is that the supply of high quality office space in Maidstone is
acting as a constraint to the growth of office-based services. This is a
critical concern given the success of neighbouring Kings Hill Business Park,
which has planning permission for further expansion, the growth of
Crossways in Dartford, and the proposals for major office development at
Ashford, Ebbsfleet, and elsewhere in the Thames Gateway. The view locally is
that if the situation does not change then these competing office locations
will absorb footloose investment that might otherwise have located in
Maidstone, and there is also the threat that indigenous companies looking to
trade up will move out of the borough.
A.7. According to the Employment Land Study, Maidstone has a large office stock
– the largest in Kent according to 2004 figures with some 281,000 sq.m.
However, according to agents, much of the town centre office stock is
secondary with high vacancy rates, particularly around King Street,
Lower Stone Street, London Road, the Power Hub and Albion Road. The
Study notes the lack of office development in Maidstone between 1991 and
200045 reinforcing the observation that stock is older and unfit for modern
business needs. Anecdotally, local employers complain that there is very little
choice other than the Eclipse Business Park when they wish to trade up.
Moreover, rental rates are generally high at Eclipse because of the lack of
A.8. In contrast to these observations, the Council highlights the fact that some
sites earmarked for office development have failed to come forward.
Anecdotally, agents suggest that the current economic climate with rising
construction costs and falling yields means the profit margins are being
squeezed and therefore to some extent this is a reflection of the national
picture. However, there are also local factors at work; it is possible that the
large stock of low-grade cheap office space in the town, and uncertainties
over its future adds to the risk to developers. The Council needs to work with
developers to understand the barriers to development and how to unlock
new sites in the town centre.
A.9. If more office space were available, local agents are confident it could be let.
This view is expressed in the Employment Land Study by GVA Grimley, which
concluded “there is latent demand for good quality office floorspace within
Maidstone town centre and potentially at edge-of-town locations”. This is
evidenced by high take-up and occupancy levels of good quality office space
in the town centre and by the success of the Eclipse Business Park, which has
seen good take up in the first phase and has attracted Towergate Insurance,
Europe‟s largest independent insurance intermediary, to anchor Phase II of
the development in 2009.
A.10. Transforming the office market in Maidstone clearly presents a number of
highly complex challenges, particularly related to the town centre market. In
our view, this warrants a comprehensive approach in the form of a town
centre Area Action Plan following adoption of the Core Strategy. Some of the
key challenges to be addressed by the Council include:
p. 81, GVA Grimley (2007) „Employment Land Review‟
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A prioritised, phased development programme for the office
sector – the Council should prepare a phased programme of office
development in Maidstone to ensure a pipeline of sites come forward.
It should work with partners to identify where there are barriers to
development. Potential sites are highlighted in the Employment Land
Study and summarised in Section 7.
Revitalising town centre stock - the Council should work with local
agents and land owners to prepare site-by-site appraisals of town
centre office blocks, testing the feasibility for demolition,
refurbishment or conversion. The Employment Land Study suggest
that redevelopment of some of the sites would be favourable. Allowing
mixed-use development with a minimum requirement of the existing
floorspace through Section 106 agreements, might provide the
necessary incentive for the market to make this happen. Revitalising
the town centre stock will also require improvements to parking and
accessibility (see Section 6E)
A phased approach to town centre and edge of town
development. Planning policy guidance states that development
should be focused in the town centre, which is key to supporting its
vibrancy. However, the market for out of town office space with
parking appears to be stronger. In recognition that there may be long
lead-in times to site assembly and redevelopment of town centre sites,
some development of complementary out of town business park
accommodation may be needed in accessible locations.
A.11. Ensuring the right office market offer is in place will enable Locate in Kent to
market Maidstone more vigorously as a location for business and professional
services, as well as other office-based sectors.
A.12. Beyond the property market, Maidstone Council should support the
networking activities of companies in the sector. A number of professional
services companies have recently joined forces to form an informal network
called „The Professional Hub‟, which has twenty members including some
from outside the borough. According to their mission statement, the Hub is a
group of Maidstone focussed professionals whose aims are to:
promote growth and investment in the South East;
provide a focal point for business advice and information;
be a conduit for interaction with local and regional government;
develop Maidstone as a centre of professional excellence supporting
business in the South East;
raise awareness of Maidstone as a centre of professional excellence
and establish a credible identity.
A.13. Members of the Hub are seeking to exploit opportunities to collaborate, and
to attract business to Maidstone from outside the borough, particularly
London. This is clearly a major asset for the borough and the activities of the
Hub should be supported. As a starter, the hub should be invited to join the
new economic partnership for the borough (see Section 8). This will help to
improve business engagement and local understanding of business
requirements in the sector.
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1. Engage with local agents/land owners to undertake site-by-site appraisals
of secondary office accommodation and test the feasibility for conversion,
demolition or refurbishment, as part of a comprehensive approach to office
2. Prepare a prioritised, phased programme of office development, identifying
sites for prime high quality office space in the town centre and for
complementary edge of town development.
3. Support the networking activities of the Professional Hub, as part of the
new Local Economic Partnership.
Retail and leisure
A.14. A strong retail and leisure sector was identified as an important platform of
the economic vision for Maidstone. It is vital for the vibrancy of the town
centre, provides valuable employment to lower skilled residents, and helps to
retain expenditure in the borough. As described in Section 4, Maidstone has a
healthy retail sector, buoyed by the development of Fremlin Walk, but part of
the vision must be to build on this success.
A.15. The future of the retail and leisure sector in Maidstone is inherently tied to
the future of the town centre. While it performs well today, the town centre
must continually develop its offer if it is to stay ahead of competing centres
in the region. There remain underperforming areas of the town and scope to
develop a better retail circuit from Fremlin Walk through to the Star Arcade.
A.16. The Council is assessing future requirements of the sector through a retail
capacity study. Without pre-empting the findings of this study, we
recommend that the Council develops a „post-Fremlin‟ retail strategy for the
next phase of development.
A.17. In keeping with the vision to make Maidstone a more distinctive place, there
are opportunities to build a high quality retail offer, with a balance of
independent and mainstream retailers. According to the Town Centre
Management, there are a limited number of vacant retail outlets (9% in
2006) and those that are vacant, are secondary space unsuitable for high-
end retailers. Developing independent and boutique retail has proved
successful in other parts of the country including Lewes and Brighton.
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Case Studies: The Old Needlemakers and The Lanes
The Old Needlemakers, Lewes
Lewes, like Maidstone, is the administrative centre of East Sussex. Perched on the edge of
the River Ouse, it is a historic town, and the narrow streets and twisting lanes lie much
The Old Needlemakers is the shell of an early 19th century candle and needle factory. It
now contains small craft-based shops selling jewellery, toys, fragrances, candles and an
excellent cafe. The building retains huge beams, old woodblock floors, stable doors, and a
deep well which provided the water for the steam driven machinery. As well as supporting
employment, the workshops and studios have made a major contribution to Lewes‟s retail
and tourism offer.
The Lanes, Brighton
Brighton‟s Lanes are one of the most successful examples of independent retail
transforming a town centre. This area of Brighton was due to be demolished in the early
1960s as it was seen as dirty and run-down. However, public opinion turned against the
scheme and today the Lanes are a fashionable area of expensive, tourist-orientated shops,
cafes and wine bars.
Over the years, the Lanes have also developed niche areas of independent retail. There are
dozens of independent jewellers and a large number of beauty shops and hair salons. So
much so that the Lanes compete well with London in these fields.
A proactive group of businesses came together to promote the Lanes. This network - The
Lanes Business Network – is a free membership organisation of over hundred traders. It
provides networking opportunities, advice, information, newsletters and social events.
A.18. Following the outcome of the retail capacity study, the Council should be in a
clearer position to determine the scale and type of future retail floorspace
required. In our view, an Area Action Plan is needed as part of a
comprehensive approach to the town centre dealing with this and other town
A.19. Similarly, in the leisure sector, the Council has an aspiration to bring new
cultural facilities to the town such as a concert hall, as part of a more diverse
and higher quality evening offer. Opportunities to exploit the river are also
being examined to enhance the town centre tourism and cultural and leisure
offer will be put forward in the Tourism Strategy.
4. Following the outcome of the Retail Capacity Study, identify the scale and
type of retail and leisure space required, as part of a comprehensive
5. Attract high quality cultural facilities befitting a county town and improve
the public realm in the town centre.
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Creative and Media
A.20. The creative industries and particularly the media sector are seen as a
potentially unique selling point for Maidstone, and therefore an important
part of the vision. Moreover, it is an important sector because creativity in
business supports innovation and therefore enhances competitiveness.
A.21. While the creative and media sector in Maidstone today could arguably be
described as embryonic, there are opportunities for supporting its
development which the Council and partners should explore. In our view, the
focus should be on:
supporting the expansion of UCCA and Maidstone Studios,
developing an enterprise centre with a creative/media focus; and
reinventing the Media Tree network.
A.22. The expansion of the University of Creative and Cultural Arts (UCCA) in
Maidstone presents the greatest opportunity for growth of the sector. Today
there are around 750 students at the Maidstone campus – 180 undertaking
FE courses, the rest HE. Across all its campuses, UCCA has over 6000
students. An expanded campus and more students could bring significant
benefits to the borough by increasing the supply of creative talent and
developing knowledge transfer capacity. The University is carrying out a
Sustainability Review to test different options, one of them being
consolidation in Maidstone. Negotiations with the Council are ongoing and a
potential site at Junction 7 had been identified.
A.23. The university is keen to develop a stronger town centre presence, and if a
site could be found, it would add to the town centre‟s vibrancy. As part of the
site by site appraisals of town centre office stock, consideration should be
given to opportunities for conversion to student accommodation. This has
been the experience in other towns and cities across the UK. For example,
Southend-on-Sea has begun to see the benefits of its new HE/FE campus,
which has increased enrolment figures by 9000, and offers state of the art
facilities including incubation space.
CASE STUDY: HE and FE Campus in Southend
The £53 million combined South East Essex College and new University of Essex campus
demonstrates the positive impact of bringing education into the heart town centre. Based
just off the High Street, the development offers modern, state-of-the-art teaching and
business environments in a town centre location. Further phases will eventually mean
some 3,000 students in the town, many from overseas. The site is currently home to three
academic departments, their students benefiting from modern lecture rooms, rehearsal
studios with panoramic sea views and high-tech medical skills labs. Future phases of
development will seek to develop more cultural facilities.
The Southend Campus is also home to the Business Hub, a specialist resource for
companies of all sizes, which aims to foster enterprise and innovation. The Business Hub
provides a wide range of incubation and support services and contemporary, professional
facilities including an i-Lab, and a Business Incubation Centre for start-up businesses.
Renaissance Southend URC, and Southend-On-Sea Borough Council report that the new
campuses has brought new life to the town centre and is providing a catalyst for the town‟s
regeneration. Expanding the HE sector to expand in Maidstone and finding an appropriate
site for UCCA to develop its town centre presence could bring similar beneficial effects.
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A.24. If a town centre site cannot be found, the university could develop its
presence via a new Maidstone Enterprise Centre, offering exhibition space for
creative and cultural projects as well as incubation space suitable for creative
companies. UCCA is seeking to expand its knowledge transfer capacity and
the Centre could provide a vehicle to do so. The Enterprise Centre is explored
further in Section 6B.
A.25. In addition to growth of the university, the Council should support the
planned expansion of Maidstone Studios. The Council should work with
Locate in Kent (which is targeting production and media broadcasting firms
as one of its seven key sectors) to agree how to develop Maidstone‟s offer.
This will almost certainly be tied to the studios and the university.
A.26. Subject to further evaluation of the activities of Media Tree, the Council,
Business Link, SEEDA and the Media Studios should input to the new
business plan for the network. This should consider in particular how to
ensure Maidstone creative and media companies are engaged with the
activities of SEEDA, including the South East Media Network.
6. Support the expansion and consolidation of UCCA in Maidstone, and the
university‟s efforts to develop its knowledge transfer capacity.
7. Test the feasibility of a new Maidstone Enterprise Centre with incubation
units suitable for media companies and exhibition space for the university.
8. Partners should input to the preparation of the new business plan for the
Media Tree network to make the network sustainable.
The Rural Economy
A.27. The analysis in Section 4 concluded that Maidstone has a relatively large
rural economy and stakeholders highlighted it as an important part of the
economic vision. Construction, hotels and restaurants, and agriculture appear
to be particular strengths according to the data. The Kent Rural Delivery
Framework provides the overarching strategy for the sector at a county level.
In our view, this is a more appropriate spatial level for the coordination of
actions to support the sector. Therefore, the role of the Council should be to
undertaking more detailed research into the nature of the rural
economy in Maidstone and linking into the activities being promoted
by the Kent Rural Board and SEEDA; and
developing rural towns and villages as economic centres in their own
right through supportive LDF policies.
A.28. A more in depth study into Maidstone‟s rural economy is needed to influence
Kent-wide policies. At present, it is unclear how exactly Maidstone will benefit
from the proposed actions in the Kent Rural Delivery Framework.
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A.29. One potential area is the emerging trend for consuming local, specialist, free
range and organic agricultural produce. The Kent Rural Delivery Framework
prioritises raising demand for Kentish products amongst Kent consumers.
The Council should support efforts to do so through Farmers Markets or
independent retailing in the town centre.
A.30. The Council should also consider how to encourage rural centres to develop
as small economic centres in their own right. According to the Rural Delivery
Framework, Kent is „well positioned to further develop its rural knowledge
economy – creating new and higher quality industries‟. On the one hand, this
means land-based research and development – the County has the largest
grouping of knowledge intensive businesses in the agricultural and food
sector in the South East. On the other, this means attracting a wider variety
of knowledge-intensive businesses from other sectors, many of whom have
already been attracted by Kent‟s proximity to London and high quality rural
environment. Policies to support rural towns and villages are being pursued
as part of the LDF.
9. Undertake further research to understand the nature of the rural economy
in Maidstone. Further to this, consider how regional and county initiatives
could better support Maidstone‟s rural sector.
10. Include policies in the LDF Core Strategy to support the vitality of rural
A.31. In the sectors analysis in Section 4, our analysis identified construction as a
potential specialism in Maidstone. The scale of development proposed in the
South East and the policy drive towards more eco-friendly homes, means
there are good prospects for growth of construction and civil engineering.
Working with partners, the Council needs to ensure that construction
companies in Maidstone are primed to exploit the economic opportunities,
and that there is a supply of skilled labour.
A.32. In order to support growth of the sector, the Council should focus on:
supporting the expansion of Mid Kent College and its development as a
specialist centre for construction; and
work with SEEDA to link in with regional activities to support the
A.33. Mid-Kent College offers a potential competitive advantage for Maidstone.
There are already extensive vocational training facilities and accompanying
courses in construction at the Maidstone site. From our discussions with the
college it is looking to significantly strengthen its operations including a
multi-million pound redevelopment of the campus at Oak Park. While
proposals are still being developed, the college would be interested in
partnering up with local employers in order to be more responsive to local
business needs. The college has recognised the gap between the skills and
knowledge of smaller local businesses and those required to meet new
environmental sustainability standards.
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A.34. The college has indicated that the new campus would consolidate its existing
vocational training offer but, significantly, also enable it to develop a higher
education offer in civil engineering. The Council should support the College‟s
proposals to redevelop the campus and to specialise in construction.
A.35. In addition to supporting the expansion of the college, the Council should
also ensure that construction companies in Maidstone are benefiting from the
support activities of SEEDA. For example, the RDA is scoping the potential for
a centre for sustainable construction in the Thames Gateway which could
benefit businesses in Maidstone.
11. Support the efforts of Mid Kent College to expand its operations and to
develop HE provision in the construction sector.
12. Improve local understanding of the nature of the construction sector in
Maidstone and the opportunities to capitalise on the sustainability agenda.
The Public Sector
A.36. Retaining a large public sector in Maidstone will not address the productivity
wage gap in Maidstone, however, it will continue to provide valuable
employment. Moreover, high quality public services is a fundamental part of
the vision to create a 21st century county town, which will attract knowledge
A.37. Housing and population growth related to Growth Point status is likely to
create additional jobs in the public sector with new schools, health services
and education provision. However, it also provides the opportunity for the
Council to develop innovative public services to serve the enlarged
population. People considering living in Maidstone want to know their children
will be well served by local schools, their health needs will be met, and they
will have ready access to cultural and leisure facilities. This involves putting
services in place in advance, or as soon as new housing is occupied. This has
implications for both capital investment and revenue support for services.
A.38. The urban extension will require new social infrastructure – schools,
healthcare, leisure and recreation facilities – which, if planned to high
standards, could act as a major draw to the area for knowledge workers and
also stimulate innovation.
13. Identify and promote opportunities for new high quality public services to
support regeneration in the borough.
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Tourism and the Olympics
A.39. The council is currently in the process of preparing a Tourism Strategy for
the borough, due for completion shortly. Therefore, we have not undertaken
an assessment of the tourism sector as part of this research. However, there
are clearly important links between the two reports. Many of the factors
which make Maidstone attractive to investors are also those which make it
attractive to tourists.
A.40. In our view, the tourism strategy should focus on:
integrating Leeds Castle more within the Maidstone tourism offer –
providing more incentives for those visiting the Castle to also visit the
developing the town centre as a tourism destination by exploiting the
river, improving the cultural and leisure offer and attracting more
events such as the Radio One Roadshow; and
exploiting the trend towards „ecotourism‟ and promoting rural parts of
the borough as tourism destinations.46
A.41. We were asked specifically to consider the opportunities for Maidstone
presented by the London 2012 Olympics. The legacy of the Games was
central to London‟s successful bid. There is little doubt that, as the host city,
the Games offers London a number of unique opportunities. What is less
clear are the benefits of hosting the games, and the legacy effects for other
UK regions. SEEDA is responsible for taking forward the legacy in the South
East, in terms of both the tourism and business opportunities. It has set up
the South East Partnership for the 2012 Games and six subgroups to explore
the visitor economy – led by Tourism South East. Current estimates
are that 50-75% of the net benefits of staging the Games will accrue
through tourism across the UK;
business and inward investment – led by SEEDA. A „business dating
agency‟ called CompeteFor to encourage South East companies to bid
for contracts related to the Games;
culture and communities – led by Arts Council England South East and
GO South East focusing on how the South East will benefit from the
four year Cultural Olympiad programme;
sport - led by Sport England South East, focusing on encouraging
participation in sport;
transport and infrastructure – led by SEERA, preparing the region for
the influx of people and ensuring longer term benefits for residents;
education, skills and employment – led by South East LSC,
encouraging young people to develop their employability and business
Kent Rural Delivery Framework 2007
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A.42. Thus far, it is unclear how Maidstone can benefit from the Olympics. We
remain unconvinced that it will have a major long term impact on the
Maidstone economy. In the short term, Leeds Castle and possibly Maidstone
town centre may experience an increase in visitor numbers. There may also
be opportunities for some companies (e.g. in the construction sector) to bid
for smaller contracts related to the Games. However, in our view, Maidstone
Council should not devote significant resources to pursuing opportunities
related to the Olympics. Instead, it should focus on raising awareness of the
regional (and national) activities being funded by SEEDA in the six areas
14. Implement the main proposals in the Tourism Strategy.
15. Engage with regional Olympics programmes to capture the benefits for
local people and businesses in Maidstone.
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B. Creating a More Innovative and Entrepreneurial
B.1. Over the next twenty years, Maidstone needs a healthy Objective 6:
level of business investment, from existing companies Support the growth
expanding their operations, new entrepreneurs setting of start-ups and
up in business for the first time, and from inward foster innovation
investment into the area. Many of these businesses will
thrive with very little support required from the public Other objectives
sector. However, in some cases, public sector business supported:
support can provide a helping hand to enable
entrepreneurs to fulfil their potential and for existing Objective 1:
Strengthen the town
businesses to be more innovative.
B.2. The Government has recognised that the plethora of
schemes available is confusing and businesses do not
always know where to go for help. The Business specialisms
Support Simplification Programme seeks to reduce the
number of schemes in England from around 3,000 to Objective 5:
100 by 2010, creating a more integrated offer. The Expand the HE
same principles should apply to business support in sector
Maidstone. The following section of the report
Business Link – core Business Link support activities in Kent;
Enterprise - building on the current rates of entrepreneurship; and
Innovation – developing R&D and knowledge trasfer capacity.
B.3. As part of the Government‟s business support simplification agenda, RDAs
have been given greater responsibility for co-ordinating and procuring
business support, including creating a single „single brokerage service‟. The
core Business Link offer has evolved into an impartial IDB (Information,
Diagnosis and Brokerage) service, designed to support the development of
small and medium-sized businesses. IDB Support is provided through
relevant up-to-date information, a diagnosis service, and brokering
businesses to the most appropriate sources of specialist support available.
The IDB Model
B.4. The Information, Diagnosis and Brokerage (IDB) service is described by
Business Link as an „impartial and innovative‟ service designed to support the
growth of SMEs by analysing their particular needs. The model provides
businesses with relevant and up-to-date information, enabling the
diagnosis of their needs (if appropriate), before acting as a broker and
directing businesses to the most appropriate sources of specialist support.
Under the new model, Business Link then continues to monitor clients‟
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ongoing needs. If they have further requirements, the process will begin
again as illustrated below.
Review & maintain
• Facilitated One-to-one
Broker • Public funded Support
Services • Supplier Matching Services
• Structured & holistic
B.5. In order to perform this role of bringing „buyers‟ and „sellers‟ together and
facilitating transactions, Business Link relies on the ongoing support of a
range of strategic partners in the public, private, academic and
voluntary/community sectors. Strategic partners include funding bodies,
organisations such as Local Authorities and Economic Partnerships, as well as
publicly-funded delivery organisations like the Manufacturing Advisory
Service (MAS), Enterprise Hubs and Gateways, and colleges/universities. By
working closely with the organisations that deliver these publicly-funded
services Business Link can simplify the market for their customers, improve
the overall economic growth of the region and achieve their respective
B.6. Business Link also depends on the supply of business support services from
delivery partners. Delivery partners include business service providers,
representative organisations, trade associations and business clubs. By
working closely with these organisations, Business Link hope to encourage
more people to exploit the available support, improve the impact of collective
services and reduce the potential for confusion.
B.7. Overall, this new model is viewed to have a number of benefits. Firstly, as
Business Link is a non-competitive gateway to business information and
advice, the service works with advice providers rather than competing with
them. In seeking to work with others, Business Link hopes to be able to
encourage more people to see business improvement as a positive thing, and
drive up demand for partners‟ services.
Business Link in Kent
B.8. In the South East, a consortium of six Business Link providers has been
established to implement the new single regional service. The area team in
Kent has a number of specific objectives:
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delivery of information, advice and support to new and mature
creating an enterprise culture and supporting new business start-ups;
regional lead for key innovation and growth areas, in addition to
access to regional partners and partnering universities in Canterbury
and Medway, and the Sittingbourne and Medway Innovation hubs;
supporting key regional sectors;
regional lead on engaging the business community in opportunities
arising from the London 2012 Olympics;
regional lead on EU funding applications and programme delivery for
Innovation, Sustainability and Economic Regeneration;
shareholder of Skills South East – which delivers of Train to Gain
Brokerage in the TGK area – and a partner in the Local Skills
Productivity Alliance. BLK also operates the Regional Resource Centre
for Environmental Technology Skills.
B.9. A dedicated area delivery team and network managers provide regular
business advice clinics, specialist regional workshops and other support
Business Link in Maidstone
B.10. Maidstone Borough Council has developed a good working relationship with
Business Link, hosting some of the business advice clinics and disseminating
information about Business Link services.
B.11. According to Business Link, demand for business support services in
Maidstone reflects the nature of the local economy. Up until February 2008,
Business Link had worked on an 'intensive' basis with 167 Maidstone
businesses and anticipated finishing the financial year at around 225. They
had „touched‟ (provided some form of information service or workshop)
around 1600 businesses in total. Comparatively, Business Link expects to
have assisted 2500 businesses in Kent „intensively‟ and „touched‟ 25,000 by
the end of this financial year.
B.12. The Council needs to ensure that businesses in Maidstone maintain the
current demand for business support services, and look to increase demand
in the future. This is particularly important as the presence of Business Link
in an area depends very much on demand – rather than dividing services
strictly by each locality – and will increase as demand rises. According to
Business Link, the support providers are always looking to increase their
presence in all areas and to identify area specific needs.
B.13. Maidstone Borough Council, as a key strategic partner, can help to ensure
local businesses are more aware of Business Link services, and that the
organisation is tailoring services to the needs of the local area. Thus it will be
important to agree a programme of activity related to the Maidstone
economy with Business Link, flowing from the key sectors identified in this
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B.14. As outlined in the State of the Economy section, Maidstone has an
entrepreneurial economy, recording strong growth in the number of VAT
registered businesses and a high rate of self employment. Business Link
undertakes a number of different activities to support enterprise:
pre-start outreach capacity building programme;
networking with community groups;
introduction of innovative support processes (Trading-Up programme)
to pre-starts based on a successful EU funded pilot developed by BLK;
joint programmes to support Enterprise in Schools;
local delivery of regional start-up service; and
local support to early stage enterprises (<2 years).
B.15. There are also a number of regional programmes to support enterprise led by
B.16. Enterprise Hubs are SEEDA-backed networks with a physical presence in
centres across the South East which help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to
market. Sittingbourne is the closest „Hub‟ to Maidstone.
B.17. The Accelerator Fund - a £10 million loan fund run by Finance South East and
supported by SEEDA and Business Link. It provides loans of £25,000-
£100,000 to small to medium sized enterprises which have the potential for
Supporting Enterprise in Maidstone
B.18. Looking forward, the Council needs to ensure that entrepreneurs are fully
aware, and able to exploit the activities of Business Link designed to foster
enterprise. It should also support the actions of partners to promote an
entrepreneurial culture. For example, members of the Professional Hub would
be keen to get involved with promoting an enterprise culture in schools.
B.19. Perhaps the biggest need identified by stakeholders to support enterprise is
physical accommodation – managed workspace for start ups. This was
mentioned on numerous occasions in discussions with stakeholders. UCCA in
particular suggests that its graduates would benefit from a supportive
environment where they could develop their business ideas. The university is
looking to expand its knowledge transfer capacity and needs accommodation
to do so.
B.20. The creation of a Maidstone Enterprise Centre, with a particular focus on
the creative industries warrants further investigation. Such a centre could
comprise the following:
Serviced offices: workspace offering high quality IT
Easy-in, easy-out office space: short term licensing agreements
allowing offices to be hired for as long as needed, but with the option
to move out quickly if necessary.
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Virtual Office & Front Desk: Professional telephone answering
service and reputable postal address.
Meeting Rooms and event space: Catered meeting and conference
facilities to support Business Link events (including networking) and
designated exhibition space.
Exhibition space – showcasing local creative arts and UCCA projects.
B.21. If linked to the university, the centre would help to develop knowledge
transfer capacity, supporting R&D and innovation. It would also help to retain
graduates in the area.
B.22. In our view, the Centre would benefit from a town centre location.
Opportunities could be explored to comprehensively upgrade one of the
existing secondary office blocks. Visibility in the town centre could make it a
single port of call for those firms needing business assistance in Maidstone.
In doing so it would promote and raise the profile of Business Link and
SEEDA support activities to ensure that more Maidstone companies benefit
from regional programmes.
B.23. It would also provide a further venue to showcase local talent reinforcing the
recent Art at the Centre Maidstone project, which is looking to develop an
artist quarter in the town centre.
B.24. Clearly, initial feasibility work and business planning would be needed to test
the viability of the scheme and to consider sources of funding. There are
opportunities in teaming up with private sector providers such as Basepoint,
who have successful Business Centres in operation across the South East and
surrounding regions. These centres are owned outright by Basepoint (often in
partnership with local authorities or RDAs) or managed on behalf of third
parties. In 2004 Basepoint was nominated as a preferred partner with SEEDA
to develop and operate up to 20 additional business centres over the next
sixteen years. Kent is home to only two Basepoint centres; one is a
refurbished Grade II listed building in Northfleet, and the other is in
B.25. Elsewhere in the country, the Kirklees Media Centre is a good example of a
successful and sustainable Enterprise Centre that focuses on the media and
creative industries (see below).
CASE STUDY: Kirklees Media Centre
The award winning Kirklees Media Centre was set up in 1995 by Kirklees Metropolitan Council
as a high quality managed workspace designed to counter the decline in manufacturing and
support the growth of a new sector. The centre provides a home to a thriving community of
digital, media and creative enterprises. The centre has developed over time from one building
in 1995, to two in 2002 and three by 2007. Along with business and IT support, a creative
programme of events, café Ollo and meeting/conference rooms, the centre now boasts 121
office spaces, 21 live-work studios and Virtual Offices for over 120 companies and 300 people.
With support from the RDA, the Media Centre has developed a number of different revenue
streams and is now fully sustainable. As well as managing offices elsewhere in the sub-region,
the company is also involved in product development, helping to commercialise IPR. In
addition, it is hoping to launch a subscription based networking service targeted at companies
in similar digital media centres elsewhere in the region.
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B.26. As described in the Section 3 of this report, levels of innovation in Maidstone
are weak – there are relatively few annual patent applications and a low
proportion of people employed in innovation enabling businesses. The recent
white paper Innovation Nation reinforced the importance of innovation to UK
economic growth. A number of policies were proposed to develop innovation
A new initiative to provide at least 1,000 „innovation vouchers‟ every
year by 2011 to help support and fund SMEs to work with a university,
further education college or research organisation to develop a new
product or service;
Piloting a new Specialisation and Innovation Fund to boost the capacity
of further education colleges to unlock workforce talent and to support
businesses in raising innovation potential; and
Doubling the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships between
businesses, universities and colleges;
B.27. Promoting innovation is a key activity of SEEDA and its sister organisations.
Business Link in Kent is the regional lead in operating the European
Information and Innovation Relay Centre for the South East, and has local
access to regional programmes and the innovation advisory services for
design and manufacturing.
B.28. Business Link Kent is also in partnership with the Universities at Canterbury,
Medway and the Sittingbourne and Medway Innovation Hubs to support
technology transfer and closer working between the academic and business
B.29. Many of the innovation activities in the region are targeted around particular
sectors. BLK has involvement in partnerships or consortia for developing
innovation in the sustainable construction, creative and tourism sectors. BLK
is also the lead partner in Kent Sustainable Business Partnership. In addition,
SEEDA has the following Sector Consortia:
Creative Sector (South East Media Network)
Marine (Marine South East)
Environmental Technologies (Envirobusiness)
Tourism & Hospitality (Tourism South East)
Developing Maidstone‟s innovative capacity
B.30. In order to enhance levels of innovation in Maidstone, the Council should
ensure that it promotes the regional innovation support services offered by
SEEDA and its sister organisations. In particular, it should promote those
support services targeted at sectors where Maidstone has a particular
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B.31. In addition, the Council should support UCCA and Mid Kent College in their
ambitions to expand higher education and knowledge transfer/R&D capacity.
16. Explore the feasibility of a Maidstone Enterprise Centre – serviced small business
premises – with a possible focus on creative/media companies.
17. Engage with Business Link to agree a programme of activity relevant to the
18. Support UCCA and Mid Kent College to develop knowledge transfer capabilities.
19. Develop stronger mechanisms for promoting regional innovation support
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C. Attracting and Retaining Investment
C.1. Attracting and retaining investment in Maidstone will
be critical to future economic performance. As global
and national competition for investment intensifies, the
borough needs a distinctive offer to investors which it
can promote with partners. This chapter considers the Objective 2:
inward investment track record in Kent and, more Ensure a pipeline of
specifically Maidstone, and how to strengthen the high quality sites.
position in the future.
Inward Investment in Kent
C.2. Locate in Kent (LiK) is the Investment Promotion Agency for Kent and
Medway. LiK has been a private limited company since 1997, its remit is to:
raise the profile of Kent and Medway as a location for businesses;
attract companies and quality jobs to the county; and
to support existing companies looking to expand.
C.3. The company is a not-for-profit organisation, half funded by Kent County
Council and half by private contracts with different public and private sector
clients. The company offers a free, confidential relocation service, including
information about sites and premises in Kent and Medway, location-specific
research, local knowledge and specialist contacts. LiK also provide advice on
any available grants or financial assistance and provide an aftercare service
to all Kent and Medway based companies, assisting them in their growth and
development. Moreover, LiK plays a key business retention role, through
support services and marketing activities.
C.4. Historically, Kent was poorly perceived as an investment location. Locate in
Kent research from 2003 illustrated that this was often because investors
considered Kent to be somewhat remote, agricultural and fell under the
stigma of being an expensive „south east‟ location. In 2003-4, LiK launched a
campaign to change perceptions. In 2003 52% of respondents felt Kent was
a good or very good business location, but by 2006 this had risen to 80%.
C.5. Kent‟s offer as a competitive inward investment location is improving rapidly.
The massive regeneration plans across the county and the access to London
and Europe offered by CTRL, are enhancing Kent‟s status as one of Europe‟s
most dynamic business locations. Although situated in the South East and
close to London, Kent is a also a very cost effective location – property can
be up to 60% cheaper in some sectors when compared to London.
C.6. According to LiK‟s records, since 1997 it has assisted 470 companies, created
20,306 jobs, and supported the retention of 8,620 jobs. The Agency has
county wide targets and seeks to attract investors Kent-wide. However, it
also has area-specific targets where it enters into a contract with clients such
as the Thames Gateway.
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The inward investment track record in Maidstone
C.7. Locate in Kent‟s most recent figures show that it assisted (referred to as
„successes‟) 60 companies in Maidstone since 1997, an average of
approximately six a year. These successes have resulted in the creation of
1450 jobs in Maidstone and the retention of a further 657. The graph below
suggests that the Maidstone inward investment market has largely mirrored
trends in Kent.
Kent & Medway and Maidstone Successes 1997 – January 2008
70 Kent Maidstone
Number Maidstone Successes
Number Kent Successes
1997-8 1998-9 1999-0 2000-1 2001-2 2002-3 2003-4 2004-5 2005-6 2006-7 2007-8
C.8. Maidstone performs well relative to the rest of Kent comprising 12.8% of all
successes. Over the last 10 years, Maidstone has consistently been one of
the most popular locations in Kent behind Tonbridge and Malling. However,
average investments are generally smaller than Kent and Medway averages.
This is reflected in the number of jobs created and retained in the borough,
shown in the table below. With regards to job creation figures, Maidstone
falls behind Tonbridge & Malling, Dartford, Thanet, Medway and Swale. The
borough also ranks similarly (7th out of 13) when looking at the number of
Successes and Jobs Created and Retained 1997-Dec 2007
Successes Jobs Created Jobs Retained
Tonbridge & Malling 95 Tonbridge & Malling 4232 Dartford 1627
Maidstone 60 Dartford 3774 Tonbridge & Malling 1546
Medway 51 Thanet 2965 Medway 1406
Ashford 43 Medway 2934 Ashford 877
Swale 42 Swale 1493 Dover 672
Dartford 39 Maidstone 1450 Swale 659
Thanet 34 Ashford 1422 Maidstone 657
Sevenoaks 29 Sevenoaks 649 Gravesham 392
Canterbury 24 Tunbridge Wells 402 Thanet 355
Dover 22 Dover 336 Shepway 169
Tunbridge Wells 13 Canterbury 290 Sevenoaks 138
Shepway 12 Shepway 181 Canterbury 86
Gravesham 6 Gravesham 178 Tunbridge Wells 36
Total 470 20,306 8,620
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C.9. Research conducted by LiK in June 2005 examining the perceptions of
businesses in Kent, suggests Maidstone is highly regarded. Maidstone was
ranked as the top business location by 56% of respondents, with Ashford
second. Investors consider Maidstone to be a well established location for
business, with good strategic connectivity. The area is also considered to
offer good support services, such as legal, finance, accounting and other
C.10. However, Maidstone is still widely perceived as suffering from major traffic
congestion around the town centre and having poor connectivity by train.
The latter is thought to deter investment by national and international
companies, largely restricting Maidstone to offering attractive inward
investment opportunities to companies operating predominately in Kent. The
borough is also viewed as more expensive than similar locations in the
C.11. Locate in Kent‟s data shows that Maidstone received the greatest overall
interest from new projects in January 2008.
Number of Active Projects, Jobs Created and Retained and Industrial/Office Demand
(Jan 2008) by District
Projects Jobs Jobs
Maidstone 91 4991 1878 49 34
Medway 80 4664 1832 48 21
Tonbridge & Malling 74 4362 1816 38 26
Thanet 68 6278 1571 45 14
Dartford 62 3747 1321 38 12
Swale 62 3678 1665 37 14
Ashford 57 5961 1900 26 15
Gravesham 57 3512 1135 35 13
Canterbury 55 3650 1031 31 18
Sevenoaks 51 3416 1228 30 12
Dover 47 4919 1491 24 11
Tunbridge Wells 47 4066 1108 28 14
Shepway 32 2878 881 17 5
C.12. The difference between the level of interest, and actual successes supports
the argument that a lack of quality sites and premises may be stifling the
inward investment market.
Attracting and retaining investment in Maidstone
C.13. In our view, there are opportunities for Maidstone to attract more inward
investment into the borough. However, it must strengthen its offer before
embarking on an aggressive marketing campaign.
C.14. There is no shortage of secondary office stock in the town centre and sites
are available to develop grade A space. Yet, as noted in Section A, the
shortage of high quality, marketable sites and premises is a major constraint
to growth. Locate in Kent report a lot of interest in Maidstone from investors
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but a lack of quality sites to promote. Only around 2% of the companies LiK
have attracted to the county have built their own offices. Therefore, a steady
supply of quality office and industrial premises is needed in order for
Maidstone to turn more enquiries into successes. If Maidstone is to fulfil its
aspirations for growth it will need strong political commitment to bring about
C.15. The Council faces the additional challenge of providing car parking facilities
for town centre office development. This conflicts with the need to tackle
congestion and improve air quality. A Transport Strategy is needed to find
the right balance.
C.16. In addition to increasing the stock of quality office space – particularly space
with parking facilities – LiK recommend that the council ensure that there is a
strategic focus on certain sectors and a commensurate property offer. LiK
suggest that Maidstone‟s strengths lie in the creative and media sector,
and in business and professional services.
C.17. Maidstone needs to work with LiK to develop a clear offer that targets the
sectors identified in this report, particularly those where LiK has identified
strong demand – notably the creative and media sector (or more specifically
„media production‟) and business and professional services.
C.18. When a clear offer exists, including a supply of high quality sites for the key
sectors – it would be advantageous for Maidstone Borough Council to enter
into a contract with Locate in Kent. This would set clearly defined Maidstone-
specific targets and outputs for investment successes, job creation and job
retention in the borough. At present, it could be argued that Maidstone is not
at the top of LIK‟s priority list given its contracts with other areas. Locate in
Kent‟s most recent marketing material focuses on Ebbsfleet and Ashford.
Equally, Locate in Kent might argue they do not know what the offer is to
promote in Maidstone.
C.19. This offer could be promoted in the form of a Maidstone prospectus of sites
and through the „Locate in Maidstone‟ website managed by the Council.
C.20. In terms of business retention, the Council should identify the top 10 or 20
businesses vital to the future of the Maidstone economy, and with Locate in
Kent, develop a relationship with these businesses. This will ensure that the
Council can mobilise county and regional business retention services should a
company be considering leaving the area.
20. Identify a portfolio of premises to support investment in key sectors, and
ensure a long term pipeline of sites (see also key sectors actions)
21. Clearly define Maidstone‟s offer in relation to LIK activities and prepare a
prospectus as more sites come forward.
22. Identify the top 20 businesses for business retention and, with LiK, develop
stronger client relationships.
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D. Developing a Culture of Lifelong Learning
D.1. Education and skills is a critical driver of
competitiveness and productivity. HM Treasury‟s
Embed a culture of
analysis of the drivers for productivity shows that
workforce skill levels have a positive impact on labour
productivity. Objective 2:
D.2. Entrepreneurial and managerial ability is particularly expansion of the
important to improving productivity and growth. Also, HE sector.
firms with highly skilled employees and experienced
managers are more likely to invest in physical capital Other objectives
and introduce new technologies and innovations to supported:
Support the growth
National Policy Context of start-ups and
D.3. The Leitch Review of Skills published in December
2006 sets out a clear vision for the UK highlighting the
need to urgently raise achievements at all levels of skills and commit to
becoming a world leader in skills by 2020. This will mean doubling
attainment at all levels of skills and securing a joint commitment from
Government agencies, employers and individuals48.
D.4. The Review makes the case for investment in skills in the UK in order for the
country to compete for high value-added industries in the face of competition
from other Western countries and emerging economies such as China and
India. It argues that the UK needs to „raise its game‟ firstly, to meet future
demand for skills, and secondly to prevent the marginalisation of some
groups in the labour market.
D.5. Following publication of the SNR, the Government also published „World Class
Skills‟, its response to the Leitch Review, and the Leitch Implementation Plan
builds firmly on these changes. The plan recognises the scale of the
challenge inherent in Leitch‟s ambitious proposals for skills attainment by
2020 – and sets out some intermediate targets for basic, intermediate and
higher level skills for 2011 and 2014.
D.6. The Implementation Plan sets out the Government‟s commitment to
significantly increasing investment in employer-focused training
programmes. Public investment in Train to Gain will more than double from
£440 million in 2007/8 to over £900 million by 2010/11 – and the principle of
demand-led funding will be extended across the employment and skills
D.7. The Leitch Review states that a key objective should be for all individuals to
have a greater awareness of the value of skills development and have easier
access to the opportunities available. Workless people will have a better
HM Treasury, Productivity in the UK: The Evidence and the Government‟s Approach (2000)
The Leitch Review of Skills: Prosperity for all in the global economy - world class skills, December 2006
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chance to find a job through effective diagnosis of their skills needs and
greater support as they make the transition into sustainable work.
D.8. Individuals will have more chances to gain a full Level 2 qualification and
basic skills in the workplace through Train to Gain. Employers will have more
influence over skills strategy within a simplified system, greater incentives to
invest in skills across all levels; advice through expanded skills brokerage
and increased assistance for workplace training.
D.9. In seeking to raise levels of skills and education there are a number of
specific dimensions that need to be considered. Firstly, the formal education
and training system has an important role to play in providing the right
opportunities through schools, colleges and universities. Secondly, employers
through investing in training and workforce development have a key role to
play in securing skills for productivity growth and enhancement. Finally,
individuals have a role to play in taking responsibility for their own lifelong
learning and development.
D.10. For many, the initial experience of the compulsory education system is a key
determinant of their future attainment and ongoing commitment to lifelong
learning. Vocational skills are also important, particularly for individuals not
predisposed to more academic qualifications.
D.11. The role of employers, through investment in workforce development and
training and the provision of job specific skills, is critical to future
competitiveness. Some employers, particularly SMEs, give lower priority to
investing in workforce development than is perhaps required. This is in part
due to the costs involved in terms of both financial outlay but also lost staff
time. There is also a concern that skilled employees are more likely to be
attractive in the broader labour market and therefore demand higher rates of
return, or be „poached‟ by competitors.
D.12. While skills and education is clearly recognised as a critical determinant of
competitiveness, it is an area of public policy that is subject to considerable
change and uncertainty. The UK Government continues to invest significant
resources in education, training and skills development, and with this comes
an element of upheaval.
D.13. A number of future developments, emerging in response to the Leitch
Review, have already been described above. In addition, significant reforms
to the delivery of adult and young people‟s skills were announced in March
2008. Under these proposals the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will be
dissolved and £7 billion worth of resources will be transferred to local
authorities. In addition £4 billion a year will be channelled through a new
agency to provide training and skills for adults with the objective of
transforming the current system to be responsive and demand led.
D.14. While the impact of this will be felt most acutely by Kent County Council, as
the Local Education Authority, there are important implications for Maidstone
and the Borough Council‟s economic objectives. For 14-19 year olds the new
system will allow the responsible local authorities to commission provision to
meet demand from young people and employers. Similarly, the new Skills
Funding Agency will fund FE Colleges and other providers to meet the
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demands of employers and learners. Maidstone needs to ensure that the
needs of residents and employers across the borough are fully reflected in
these new arrangements.
D.15. Also of relevance is the current Department for Innovation, University and
Skills (DIUS) consultation inviting proposals from towns and cities for new
university campuses and centres of higher education49. The consultation
recognises that new high education facilities can „unlock the potential of
towns and people by driving economic regeneration‟ and that a good range of
local higher education provision is essential „to ensure that we do not waste
the talent of many individuals‟.
D.16. The consultation identifies a number of ways in which higher education
provision can unlock the potential of towns and people and also where
provision can drive economic growth, these are summarised in the following
6.5. Unlocking potential of 6.6.
towns and Driving economic growth
Widening participation and unlocking Creating and retaining a highly skilled
talent workforce with relevant skills for the
local business community
6.8. Attracting and retaining talent in an
area 6.12. Job creation and economic growth
Contributing to community well being Stimulating entrepreneurship
Responding to population growth Engagement with local businesses to
solve problems and improve
D.17. Recognising the range of benefits that higher education provision can bring
the new „University Challenge‟ the Government has asked the Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFECE) „to develop a transparent
mechanism for communities to put together a bid for funds for a higher
education centre or university campus‟.
Education and Skills Provision in Maidstone
D.18. There are 15 secondary schools, 23 primary schools and 2 special schools in
Maidstone. In addition to places at school six-forms in the area, Mid-Kent
College is the primary local FE provider. The University College for the
Creative Arts (UCCA) offers predominantly Higher Education (HE) courses,
but also provides a significant proportion of FE education in the area.
D.19. Mid Kent College is spread over four campuses in Rochester, Chatham and
Maidstone. Provision is across all 14 Areas of Learning with progression
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, A New „University Challenge‟: Unlocking Britain‟s
Talent, March 2008
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routes from Level 1 through to Level 3 in most areas. Access to Higher
Education (HE) and Level 4 courses are provided at the college and in
partnership with the University of Kent.
D.20. At present, there are around 750 students at the UCCA Maidstone campus –
180 undertaking FE courses, the rest HE. In total, across its other campuses,
UCCA has over 6000 students. Traditionally, the university has specialised in
media, moving images, photographics and introduced one of the first media
courses nationally in the 1960s. It also has a tradition of print making,
illustration and graphics.
D.21. Data from the Learning & Skills Assessment for Maidstone & Malling from
2006 suggests that around 50% of 16-19 year olds are in some form of LSC
funding in Maidstone and Tonbridge & Malling. This figure stands at 78% for
16-18 year olds.
D.22. Individual Learner Records (ILR) and PLASC provision side data for 14-18
years old in Maidstone and Tonbridge & Malling shows that participation in
School Sixth Forms has risen year on year since 2002, while FE education
has remained fairly static between 2002 and 2004, although it dips slightly
between 2004 and 2005. However, this data does not include participation
on FE courses at UCCA.
D.23. According to data collected from 16-18 years old forum learners from
Maidstone & Malling in the Learning & Skills Assessment for Maidstone &
Malling report, the vast majority (86%) attending school sixth forms, do so
D.24. Participation in Further Education colleges has decreased marginally since
2002. Mid-Kent college has the greatest share of 14-18 year old learners at
71%. 23% travelled outside of the Maidstone & Malling area in 2004/2005 –
9% went to West Kent college and 4% to Harlow. 6% go outside of the Kent
and Medway area for FE provision.
D.25. According to 2007 data from the Department for Children, Schools & Families
(DCSF) overall performance of schools (when looking at the proportion
achieving any passes at GCSE) at the Maidstone District level has risen over
the last ten years. A larger proportion of children in Maidstone than Kent,
the South East and England as a whole, achieve 5 or more A*-C grades.
68.4% attained this level of qualification, up from 53.1% in 1997. Figures
for Kent and England stand at 64.9% and 62.0% respectively.
D.26. Looking at the attainment of 11 and 14 years old, Maidstone district schools
perform relatively poorly. In 2006, numeracy levels for 11 year olds were
lower than the county, regional and national averages. Literacy levels remain
on par with averages for the country, below the South East average but
above the Kent figure.
D.27. At 14, the proportion of children achieving level 5 and above stands at 70%
in English and 76% in Maths – level or below county, regional and country
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averages. The proportion attaining this level in English has fallen since 1997
by 4 percentage points.
Educational attainment of residents in the borough
D.28. With the exception of NVQ level 4 and above, qualifications as a proportion of
the working age population are lower in Maidstone than the South East.
However, these figures are higher than the Great British average.
D.29. The most recent ONS Annual Population data shows that Maidstone has a
smaller proportion of residents with A level or Advanced Vocational
Qualifications than the South East and Great Britain. Furthermore,
Maidstone has a smaller proportion of young people entered for science A
levels and a smaller proportion achieving A grades in these subjects (See
SOE report, p.68-69, charts 33-34.)
D.30. Maidstone has proportionately 2,700 more residents educated to degree level
or above than the South east or Great Britain, with almost 35% being
educated to this level. However, with relatively few skilled jobs in the area, a
large proportion are assumed to commute out of the area for work.
D.31. The Kent County Council Supporting Independence Programme area profile
for Maidstone highlights High Street, Park Wood, Shepway North and
Shepway South as those wards with the highest proportion of NEETs.
Almost one in four (24.1%) 16 to 18 year olds in Park Wood were NEET in
April 2006, ranking as the third most deprived of all Kent County Council‟s
Priorities for Maidstone
D.32. In light of the above analysis there are a number of clear education and skills
priorities for Maidstone.
D.33. As the quality and application of human capital is a key determinant of
productivity growth, Maidstone needs to actively encourage local employers
to prioritise workforce development and training. This should include the
promotion of Train to Gain, the Skills Pledge and the work of the Sector Skills
D.34. While generally affluent, there are a number of pockets of disadvantage
across the borough where levels of education, attainment and skills
development are a matter for concern. In particular, in the Park Wood and
High Street wards there are significant proportions of NEET (individuals Not
In Employment, Education or Training). While this has already been
identified as a priority for the Community Strategy it is also an issue for the
future economic success for the Borough.
D.35. Maidstone‟s current range of primary and secondary provision is an economic
asset for the Borough. This needs to be maintained and support should be
given to the work currently underway to respond to the support cross
institutional working to deliver the new Diplomas, to be fully operational by
2013. In addition, the opportunities linked to the Building Schools for the
Future programme, which will reach Maidstone in 2011 should also not be
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D.36. At present the lack of Higher Education (HE) institutes in the Maidstone
economy provides a further barrier to productivity enhancement and
economic growth. While a range of provision is available the expansion of
both UCCA and Mid Kent College should be encouraged and further work
should be undertaken with local employers to ensure that training is firmly
based on employer needs.
D.37. Consideration should also be given to the potential for a future bid for a new
university campus, linked to the outcomes of the Government‟s consultation
on the new „University Challenge‟. This should bring together existing and
potential providers of higher education, residents and local employers.
23. Maximise the take up and impact of national skills programmes including:
Train to Gain, the Skills Pledge and other mainstream initiatives. Support
the work of the Local Education Authority and education providers in
preparing for the new Diploma.
24. Ensure that actions to address NEETS in Shepway and Park Wood are fully
embedded in the Community Strategy.
25. Maximise the regeneration benefits of the eventual roll out of the Building
Schools for the Future programme in Maidstone.
26. Continue to work to expand higher education provision in the Borough and
seek to ensure the consolidation of both UCCA and Mid Kent College.
27. Work with Kent County Council to support improvement in schools
performance at GCSE and A-level.
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E. Transport and Connectivity
E.1. The importance of transport and connectivity to
Objective 7: Invest
economic competitiveness is well documented, and
in a high quality
was highlighted very clearly in the recent DfT/HM
Treasury Eddington Transport Study. Eddington
concluded that economic growth drives transport Other objectives
demand. This creates both opportunities and supported:
challenges - including the impact on the environment.
“Government and the private sector need to show Objective 2:
considerable foresight to deliver a transport system Environmental
capable of supporting the continued success of the UK sustainability
economy, able to continue to compete globally and underpins public
meeting its environmental challenges." 50 sector investments.
E.2. Maidstone needs a transport network that facilitates
the free flow of goods, services and people. In terms of raw strategic
connectivity, the borough is well served by strategic rail, road and sea
connections. However, there are key strategic and local transport issues that
stakeholders believe are constraining economic growth. Locate in Kent‟s
research suggests that Maidstone is still widely perceived as suffering from
significant traffic congestion around the town, while trains to London and
elsewhere are relatively slow and infrequent. This contrasts with high speed
passenger services serving other key locations in the region due to begin
operation in November 2009.
E.3. While the Economic Development Strategy is not intended to provide a
comprehensive transport strategy for Maidstone, which should be prepared
separately, it is important to highlight those transport investments that will
support economic growth. In our view, investment in transport infrastructure
is needed in three areas: i) to support the expansion of Maidstone town
centre; ii) to improve access to Greater South East, national and
international markets; and 3) to unlock key sites, particularly the urban
Town centre accessibility
E.4. Improved access in, out, and around the town centre is absolutely critical for
strengthening Maidstone‟s position as a retail and leisure destination, and to
revitalise the office market. The priorities include: All Saints Link Road,
improvements to the gyratory system, an enhanced Park and Ride,
improvements to the Urban Traffic Management system, public transport
improvements – particularly the bus network, and, longer term, a strategy
for town centre parking.
Access to GSE, national and international markets
E.5. If the Maidstone economy is to play a bigger role in the South East, more of
its companies need to be serving markets outside the borough. This means
access to the strategic road and rail network is absolutely critical.
DfT/HM Treasury (2006) „The Eddington Transport Study‟
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E.6. The M20 forms the main link through the county and is part of the Trans
European Network (TERN). It is a crucial link between London and the South
West to Dover and Calais. At a regional level, the road network supports
commerce, supply and distribution. It serves as a commuting route across
the region, and is the main link for Freight offering access to the major ports
in the UK. Locally, the M20 supports economic activity, providing a link for
local communities to access local services such as health, education, retail
and leisure. The Highways Agency has voiced concerns about capacity
problems west of Maidstone and at junction 5 of the M2, which could have
implications for the growth agenda unless rectified. MBC and KCC have
identified the need for junction improvements around the M20 interchanges
in Maidstone to improve accessibility to the network and to unlock sites
adjacent to the motorway.
E.7. Maidstone‟s strategic connectivity is also affected significantly by Operation
Stack – the codename used by Kent Police to refer to the method of using
selections of the M20 to park lorries in phases when the ports are blocked.
This affects local traffic movements as well as strategic connectivity, which in
turn affects local businesses and their workers, and acts as a deterrent to
investors. A recent change to the phasing has exacerbated the impacts on
E.8. Maidstone has three central rail stations – Maidstone West, Maidstone East
and Maidstone Barracks providing important local links. However, rail
connectivity outside the borough to London is weak in comparison to other
competing areas in the South East. The table below shows that the journey
time to the capital (65 minutes) is exceptionally poor given the actual
E.9. With High Speed 1 (HS1) connecting London to mainline Europe via Kent in
2009, those parts of the county with HS1 stations will become increasingly
attractive to business and professional service firms. Ebbsfleet in North West
Kent will only be 17 minutes from St Pancras, while Ashford – further away
from London in miles than Maidstone – will see rail journeys to London cut
from 1 hour 23 minutes to 37 minutes.
E.10. Southeastern is proposing some improvements to the Maidstone East line for
December 2009. All of the Maidstone East line services will go to Victoria or
Blackfriars and the Thameslink core. While this means the withdrawal of the
inter peak Maidstone East, West Malling to London Bridge and Cannon Street
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service, it will aim to get more of the newer 375/377 trains to operate on the
route and offer more eight car services at peak times. It is also seeking to
ensure a consistent half hourly service from Maidstone West to Strood to
offer good connections with the High Speed trains.
E.11. However, overall journey times to London will remain unchanged. This is
citied as a critical weakness by local businesses. The Council is currently
lobbying Southeastern trains and DfT to improve journey times but there are
significant barriers to overcome. Sadly these largely relate to a history of
opposition to the mainline and high speed services. For example, when the
railway lines were constructed in the 19th century the original Southeastern
mainline was proposed to pass through Maidstone to Folkestone and Dover.
This was successfully opposed by the MPs and landowners of Maidstone and
the line was built via Tonbridge. By the time a direct line to Maidstone was
built it followed a circuitous route to join up with other lines by then in
E.12. The original proposals for what is now High Speed 1 recognised the issues at
Maidstone and proposed a station to serve Maidstone and Medway adjacent
to the A229 on Bluebell Hill. This was opposed by Maidstone Borough Council
and the local MPs. As a response to this opposition, the plans for the station
were dropped and the idea of Ebbsfleet was created.
E.13. Major capital investment is therefore required if journey times are to be cut,
which in the short term seems unlikely. However, the Council should
continue to make the case. Network Rail, which is responsible for long term
rail infrastructure upgrades and is undertaking a Kent Rail Utilisation Study
to assess the implications of economic growth for transport. This offers a
further opportunity for Maidstone to put its case forward.
Unlocking key sites
E.14. The third component of transport investment needed to support economic
growth are those infrastructure investments needed to unlock key sites and
particularly the new urban extension. This primarily includes improvements
to the M20 and the new South East Maidstone Strategic Link.
E.15. The interventions proposed by MBC and KCC to tackle these issues, and the
rationale and proposed timetable for them, are described in the table below.
E.16. Broadly, these fit within the three themes we have described as: 1)
improving access to the town centre; 2) improving access to GSE and
national markets; and 3) unlocking key sites.
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Summary of Transport Interventions
PROJECT DESCRIPTION/ RATIONALE PROGRESS / MILESTONES PARTNERS
Access to the Town Centre
All Saints Link High Street Ward regeneration. Upper Stone St. environmental ASLR about to start design of amended alignment, aiming MBC, Kent
Road measure. Historical precinct, Archbishops Palace, Carriage for a planning application. Highway
Upper Stone Street being considered for minor widening to
The Borough is also considering environmental improvements to allow provision of a lay-by on the eastern side. This may be
the High Street itself. These would need to accommodate combined with Wrens Cross regeneration
continuing access to the High Street for buses, taxis and servicing
vehicles. Investigation of environmental improvement in the High
Street to begin later this year
Improvements Construction of two lanes northbound for A229 to ease congestion Discussion continues with EDF over substation KHS
to the and allow better management of the bridge gyratory system modifications. Currently expected scheme construction is in
Gyratory 2010/11 via LTP funding
Park and Ride Three new Park and Ride sites are under consideration. The Langley Park Farm site scheme being considered by a MBC, KHS
improvements Langley Park Farm site on the A274 would replace the site at project group. Will identify preferred layout in April, then
Coombe Quarry that closed last year. Blue Bell Hill would serve the proceed to design.
A229 on the northern approach to Maidstone, and Linton
Crossroads would serve the A229 from the south. Blue Bell Hill site access being designed for safety audit
Potential for a site at the A229/B2163 junction at Linton
Crossroads will be evaluated
Urban Traffic Integration with Highways Agency‟s systems, and variable speed The Maidstone UTMC system will be substantially complete KHS, HA
Management controls (on the M20). in 2009/10. Management of total highway network being
(UTMC) coordinated with Highways Agency. The HA is progressing
MBC is going to declare all of the built-up area of Maidstone as an its Controlled Motorway project
Air Quality Management Area. Efficient traffic management will
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form part of the action to improve air quality
Public Improve convenience and reliability of main routes. There will be a Initially improvement of routes linking housing estates to KHS
transport combination of minor works and more major schemes through both the town centre. Work will include extension of the bus
improvements LTP and development funding lane on the A274 Sutton Road, and physical improvement
of route through the Shepway estate
Town centre Coordinate with long term access strategy for public transport Long term strategy to be developed MBC, KHS
parking (including Park and Ride)
Access to GSE, National and International Markets
Mitigating the Potential site has been identified by KCC at Aldington Awaiting DfT decision on funding DfT
M20 Junction The Highways Agency has identified junction improvements as The HA has recently clarified their expectations to include Highways
improvements essential before growth can come forward. signals at Junctions 5, 7 and 8, plus a Type H merge for Agency,
the westbound on-slip at J8 and conversion to parallel KHS, MBC
merge at J5 eastbound onto the Collector /Distributor
High speed Continue to lobby Government for fast rail connections to London. Lobbying will continue for both fast/semi-fast service to MBC, KCC
services to There is still some desire for a direct link to Gatwick, but there is London and avoiding loss of village services between
London no active work on this taking place at the moment. Maidstone and Ashford.
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Unlocking key sites / areas for employment growth
South East Would link the Urban Extension and Parkwood Industrial Estate Being developed in conjunction with Masterplanning for the KHS, MBC
Maidstone with M20 Junction 8 south east urban extension. Traffic model of Maidstone
Strategic Link being built to evaluate future transport options
M20 Junction The HA has raised capacity issues on the M20 junctions that serve Traffic signals needed at Junction 5 KHS, HA
Improvements Maidstone. They also have concern about the main line capacity of
the M20 west of Maidstone (Junctions 3-5) and the capacity of the No improvements planned at Junction 6.
M2 at Junction 5 (Stockbury). This latter junction is seen as a key
to the Growth Area in Swale Borough Traffic signals proposed for Junction 7 roundabout, plus
further improvements on local road network to be funded
by future development.
Traffic signals needed for Junction 8
A multi-modal transport model (VISM) is currently being prepared to consider in more detail the implications of growth point status
and also Kent International Gateway. VISIM may refine current thinking on the table above.
28. Continue to lobby DfT, Network Rail and work with KCC to take forward
the programme of interventions described above. Priority projects include:
M20, Maidstone Strategic Link and enhanced rail services.
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7. SPATIAL IMPLICATIONS
7.1. The Council must ensure that planning policies are put
in place which enable the economic vision and strategy Objective 1:
to be translated into development on the ground. In Strengthen the town
this section, we consider how the pattern of centre.
Maidstone‟s economic growth needs to inform spatial
planning and vice versa.
Ensure a pipeline of
high quality sites
7.2. As described in Section A, the Regional Spatial
Strategy sets out the broad principles for Maidstone‟s Objective 8:
spatial development in the regional context, which in Enable rural towns
turn is translated into local policy via the Local and villages to
Development Framework (LDF). develop as
7.3. The LDF Core Strategy is currently being revisited in
light of: Objective 9:
Ensure principles of
the concept of a strategic rail freight environmental
interchange/Kent International Gateway; sustainability
the need to undertake a Strategic Housing Land
Availability Assessment under PPS3; and
changes in the requirements under the new
Local Development Framework regulations and the new PPS12, Local
Spatial Planning, which places emphasis on infrastructure delivery and
now explicitly allows for strategic allocations;
7.4. Leaving aside these reconsiderations, there is a high degree of consistency
between the economic vision and strategy outlined in this report and the LDF
Core Strategy Preferred Options document.
The Overall Scale of Growth and Spatial Objectives
7.5. In terms of the overall scale of growth in the borough, a clear target for
housing growth (10,080 net additional homes over the next 20 years) has
been set by the RSS. However, there are no statutory jobs targets for the
borough, because employment growth is notoriously difficult to predict.
7.6. The Preferred Options document identified an outline target figure of 10,000
new jobs in the borough over the next 20 years - 500 jobs per annum - but
recognising that growth could be above this. Forecasts prepared by Experian
for the South East Plan51 predict a lower rate of 6,500 jobs between 2006-
2020 - around 460 jobs per annum. We are unclear whether these forecasts
account for population growth in Maidstone as a result of additional housing
provision. GVA Grimley adopted a similar forecast for the Employment Land
7.7. Maidstone has one of the lowest forecast growth rates of all boroughs in the
South East according to Experian. The average annual growth rate for the
region as a whole is expected to be 0.77% compared to 0.55% in Maidstone.
„South East Plan Examination in Public Note to Panel from SEEDA, 2: Economic and Employment
Forecasts by Local Authority District. (Dec 2006)
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If Maidstone were to grow at the rate forecast for the South East then 9,650
jobs would be created in the period 2006-2020. Over a period of 20 years,
this equates to approximately 13,800 jobs - above the Core Strategy
Preferred Options jobs target.
7.8. Over the last 10 years, job growth has been almost double the „business as
usual‟ rate forecast for the next 20 years. According to ABI figures, 11,600
jobs were created between 1995 and 2005 – 1,160 per annum52. On this
basis, and the premise that Maidstone should aim to grow at the same rate
as the South East, the 10,000 outline target in the Preferred Options
document could be considered a minimum. In our view, 10,000 jobs
represents the right balance between a aspirations for growth and
7.9. Policy CS3 of the Core Strategy Preferred Options states that in the first
instance, new employment land locations will be identified in the Land
Allocations DPD to meet the Kent and Medway Structure Plan requirement of
36ha. However, a higher requirement (possibly up to 47ha) may be required
in recognition that employment growth will need to accelerate in line with
population growth. Based on the more modest Experian forecast, GVA
Grimley conclude in the Employment Land Study that between 12.5ha and
27ha of employment land (gross) will be required between 2006-2027.
7.10. Growth will need to be accommodated across the borough according to the
spatial objectives set out in the Core Strategy. In relation to economic
growth, the Preferred Options document includes the following objectives:
Spatial Objective 1 is to attract new high quality and skilled
employment uses, to protect and develop the existing and indigenous
employment base, to raise the skill levels of the existing workforce and
improve life-long learning opportunities.
Spatial Objective 2 is to ensure that growth in new employment,
technology and knowledge clusters and learning opportunities are at
least balanced with population change, in order to reduce the need for
commuting out of the borough for well paid work. As part of new
employment opportunities, promote and encourage rural economic
Spatial Objective 3 is to improve the quality of the retail, business,
cultural, leisure and tourism „offer‟ of the town centre as Maidstone is
a Primary Regional Centre and will be one of the top retail destinations
of the South East.
7.11. The Core Strategy Preferred Options states that priority in the first part of
the Plan period (2006-2016) will be given to development at Maidstone town
and rural service centres. Emphasis will be on improving and regenerating
the town centre and outworn areas to achieve high quality urban living,
reinforcing the role of the county town. In the second phase of the plan
period (2016-2026) it is recognised that it will be necessary to bring forward
development on Greenfield sites (primarily for residential development). The
preferred approach is to create an attractive and cohesive new mixed use
sustainable community to the south-east of Maidstone town.
Monitoring employment growth is notoriously difficult due to the quality and consistency of the data
available. ABI is considered to be the best publicly available source.
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7.12. The spatial objectives in the LDF are consistent with the economic vision,
objectives and strategy in this document. We consider some of the spatial
implications in more detail below, taking in turn the town centre, edge of
town sites and rural areas.
The Town Centre: Creating a Hub for Economic Activity
7.13. Maidstone town centre must develop its role as a hub for economic activity if
the vision for Maidstone is to be realised. This means attracting more
knowledge intensive business and professional services, and taking the retail
and leisure offer to the next stage. As articulated in previous sections of this
report, there are some critical issues to resolve, including:
the supply of high quality office space and the future of current
secondary office stock (see Section 6A business and professional
the future scale and type of retail development, and in particular how
to attract higher quality retail (see Section 6A retail and leisure); and
attracting higher quality cultural and leisure facilities (see Section D1).
7.14. In addition, the town centre would benefit from a stronger university
presence, and managed workspace in the form of a new Maidstone
Enterprise Centre (see Section 6B and 6D respectively).
7.15. In our view, these issues, and the plans for significant residential
development, require a comprehensive approach to the town centre in the
form of an Area Action Plan (AAP) Development Plan Document
(DPD). However, there is an issue of timing of an Area Action Plan DPD,
since an AAP cannot be undertaken until the Core Strategy has been
adopted. New planning guidance makes it possible to include key sites
(including those in the town centre) in the Core Strategy, and this may be a
possible way of moving forward more quickly.
7.16. A comprehensive approach to regeneration would offer longer term certainty
and confidence to the private sector by setting out a phased programme of
development and complimentary investment. It could also be used to
harness wider strategic input and funding from partners such as SEEDA. This
concurs with the view expressed by GVA Grimley in the Employment Land
Study. A good example of a successful approach to town centre regeneration
with minimal public sector expenditure is Chelmsford (see below).
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Case Study: Chelmsford
Chelmsford shares many of the characteristics of Maidstone; it is the county town of Essex,
located within similar distance of London, and a similar - if slightly smaller - population of
110,00. Like Maidstone, the borough has a relatively large public sector, reflecting its civic and
administrative role as the headquarters of the County Council, Essex Police and the courts. In
recent years Chelmsford has attracted significant private sector interest in the town centre
and is now a major regional shopping centre. The borough also has particular strengths in
business and professional services and has been successful in developing a higher value-
added service sector. Chelmsford appeals to these companies because of its high skilled
workforce, its connectivity and quality of life.
Chelmsford has experienced strong employment growth in recent years bringing forward a
number of high quality sites for development in the town centre in the West End and Chelmer
Waterside areas. Over the period 2001-2005, some 8000 jobs were created. Much of this
growth was been fuelled by expansion of the business and professional services sector.
Looking forward the borough is delivering 16,000 new homes and targeting the creation of
20,000 new jobs.
The council is looking to build on recent success, and has published an ambitious growth
strategy, Chelmsford Tomorrow. The council is keen to strengthen Chelmsford‟s regional role
for shopping, major employment, civic and administrative functions, arts, culture and leisure
facilities and as a centre for excellence in education and health care.
An Area Action Plan has recently been produced for the town centre, identifying the main
sites and opportunity areas for development of the retail, leisure and service sectors. A
development partner will be appointed to take forward the proposals. The Council is in the
process of examining the capacity of employment sites across the borough to assess the
feasibility of higher growth. A number of complementary edge of town sites for business park
and warehousing/distribution have been identified.
7.17. The Town Centre Management group and GVA Grimley have identified a
number of sites with potential for future commercial and mixed use
27 Mote Road - planning permission has been granted for a 90,000
sq ft office development in Maidstone town centre. The premises will
offer nine-stories of open-plan flexible workspace, with good car
Springfield Business Park – a proposed restoration of Springfield
Manor House for high-class offices. Located close to junction 6 of the
M20 the site will also include approximately 200,000 sq ft of new
prestigious offices. Springfield was planned for completion by
September 2009 but it has not come forward for development.
Maidstone East Station - The 2.8 hectare site includes Maidstone
East railway station, the town centre‟s main rail link to London. The
Kier Group has been chosen by Network Rail to help with the area‟s
redevelopment, and a £50 million redevelopment plan was announced
including proposals for a hotel, 100 homes and a 55,000 sq ft store53.
Albion Place – offices along Albion Place have high vacancy rates
despite reasonable quality and location due to the terms of the leases.
A comprehensive redevelopment of the area could provide significant
levels of high quality office space and residential units.
London Road – the triangle between London Road, Tonbridge Road
and Terrace Road is currently occupied by a mix of buildings which do
not meet the demands of modern business. The site is well located in
Locate in Maidstone, 2008
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close proximity to the town centre, within walking distance of the
station. A comprehensive redevelopment could provide significant
levels of high quality office space and residential units.
Power Hub – the site is currently marketed as a business centre
providing space on short term lease. The site is well located with good
road access and within walking distance of the station. However, the
former factory does not lend itself to modern business at present and
has large vacancy rates. As noted by GVA Grimley, the site could
provide affordable space for an incubator/enterprise centre subject to
re-branding. Alternatively, the site could be redeveloped as a mixed
use development with the requirement of re-providing affordable
Peugeot site - large parts of the site are currently used for parking
but the Council has considered options for retail use and a bus station.
The Employment Land Study suggested its central location could lend
itself to high quality office development.
7.18. Through the town centre AAP, the Council should ensure these sites form
part of a prioritised, phased development programme for office development
in Maidstone. It should also set out a phased programme of commercial
renewal to deal with the over supply of older office accommodation. The
process for this would be to engage with owners and developers to undertake
7.19. The AAP would help to define more clearly the role, function and mix of uses
for different „quarters‟ of the town centre. It could address the need to create
a stronger retail circuit and the detailed plans to develop the retail and
leisure sectors in the town, linked to the town‟s wider housing growth
agenda. Moreover, it could also address parking concerns, and environmental
and public realm improvements.
Edge of Town Sites: Complementary Growth
7.20. While the town centre should be the priority for commercial development,
there may be circumstances where complementary edge of town
development is required. In the Core Strategy preferred scenario, new
employment opportunities will also be permitted in locations at the northern
edge of the urban area close to the strategic highway network. These edge of
town developments need to be made available for investors needing
motorway access, parking, and larger quantities of floorspace. This will allow
Maidstone to compete with business parks such as Kings Hill and ensure
development is complementary to the town centre.
7.21. Maidstone has the advantageous position of its motorway junctions also
being in close proximity to the town centre. Good public transport links to the
town centre and surrounding areas (including an enhanced park and ride),
and the provision of amenities for employees, will be vital for ensuring that
edge of town development is sustainable. This strategy also recognises there
may be a time lag in the site assembly and redevelopment of town centre
7.22. The employment land study identified a number of sites with potential for out
of town office development. Existing sites which could be developed include:
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Eclipse Business Park – plans for Phase II and III total 200,000 sq ft
of office space. Due for completion in early 2009.
20/20 Business Park – a mixed use business park with good
motorway access but underused/vacant land which could be developed
for office use subject to improvements to the estate.
Lordswood – predominantly an industrial estate with some recent
office development and capacity for further development.
7.23. To provide additional choice and flexibility, GVA Grimley suggest some
additional sites may be required:
Abbey Court and West Abbey Court – both located along the
motorway but with possible site access issues and access to amenities.
Junction 8 M20– a 16ha site with excellent strategic road access but
poor access to amenities.
The Employment Land Study suggests there is an overall balance between
demand and supply of industrial land up to 2016. However, there is little
vacant industrial land in the southern part of the Borough to provide for the
demand of additional industrial floorspace. Industrial sites across Maidstone
Borough are generally well occupied and vibrant and some recent
development (e.g. at Honeycrest Industrial Park) demonstrated the local
demand. This is particularly the case for the larger sites in the south of the
Borough at Marden, Staplehurst and Headcorn.
7.24. The Study suggests consideration should be given to the provision of an
additional 3 to 5 hectares as extensions of existing industrial parks in the
southern part of the Borough. Preference should be given to light industrial,
general industrial and small scale warehousing uses. Demand for large scale
warehousing and distribution can be provided for by the relatively high levels
of vacancies at Paddock Wood just south of the Borough.
7.25. In the northern part of the Borough the Employment Land Study indicates
there are a number of estates which demonstrate higher vacancy levels
reflecting under-investment. A co-ordinated improvement programme is
recommended, focusing initially on the Park Wood Industrial Estates and
20:20 Business Park in Allington. This could involve a mix of environmental
and public realm investment together with progressive renewal and
redevelopment of dated premises.
The Location of Future Development
7.26. The preferred option of the Core Strategy, which has been the subject of
public consultation, put forward the option of the urban extension.
Consultation with the Highways Agency has made it clear that from their
point of view this is the only part of the town that has the capacity to take
the scale of growth proposed and it is therefore rational to explore this area.
7.27. The Urban Extension would help to support economic growth in a number of
ways. Based on the current options report by consultants EDAW, no
significant new employment site allocations are expected although all options
include some allocation for employment in local centres to serve the
population, e.g. local retail, leisure and services.
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7.28. The South East Maidstone Strategic Link Road will improve motorway access
for this part of the borough. Park Wood Industrial estate will benefit from
improved access. Depending on the outcome of the study, there may be
opportunities in the longer term for reconfiguration of the industrial estate to
attract higher quality uses.
7.29. The bigger impact of the urban extension is likely to be felt elsewhere in the
borough, notably Maidstone town centre, which will benefit from an enlarged
catchment population. Connectivity between the urban extension and the
rest of the borough will therefore be vital.
7.30. The Core Strategy includes policies to support the development of rural
areas. As noted in Section D1, Maidstone‟s rural areas are important for
attracting highly skilled workers to the borough and policies should support
their growth as centres in their own right.
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Making It Happen:
The Action Plan
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8. MAKING IT HAPPEN: THE ACTION PLAN
8.1. This final section focuses on delivery and implementation of the plan,
including governance arrangements and monitoring. In section 2, we
identified governance arrangements as an important driver of urban
competitiveness; places with strong political and executive leadership tend to
be more successful. If the Economic Development Strategy is to be
successfully delivered then clear lines of responsibility need to be
established. This means agreeing lead responsibilities, the timetable for
delivering the action, and the resources available to support delivery.
8.2. Maidstone Borough Council will be the primary agent in delivering the
strategy. However, future economic success depends on the contribution of a
wider group of stakeholders including Mid Kent College, UCCA, the Town
Centre Management, Locate in Kent, Kent Country Council, Business Link,
SEEDA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Professional Hub, the LSC and other
public and private sector partners. Throughout our consultation, a significant
majority of stakeholders have expressed the view that a forum is needed to
bring together local partners to forge closer joint working.
8.3. There is clear appetite among local partners to work together to create a
more competitive and successful local economy, which the Council should
capitalise on. Therefore, in our view, it should support the creation of a local
economic partnership tied in to the Local Strategic Partnership. The
partnership will bring together public and private agencies, strengthening
business engagement and, if successful, generating a stronger voice in
8.4. The terms of reference for the partnership should be based on delivering the
vision and the main actions in the Economic Strategy, focusing on three or
four priorities initially where there are shared concerns. The partnership
would also help to improve accountability both in terms of the actions of the
Council but also other stakeholders such as education providers. Such
strategic partnerships have been successful in other parts of the country
such as Peterborough and Gloucestershire.
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Case Study: Gloucestershire First Local Economic Partnership
Gloucestershire First is the countywide partnership established to support the economic
development of Gloucestershire. It is an enabling organisation under which partners in the
field of economic development share and co-ordinate their strategies and contribute to an
overall economic plan for the County. This ensures that the interests of Gloucestershire are
properly and effectively taken into account in partners‟ wider considerations and that the
county plays a full role within the region. Additionally, the partnership provides a vehicle for
agreed programmes of common interest to be handled in a cost-effective and efficient
Gloucestershire First has successfully improved the County‟s interface with the South West
RDA. It represents the needs, priorities, interests and concerns of Gloucestershire in
responding to the South West RDA and other regional organisations on consultation initiatives,
strategy work and policy development. It is recognised as the countywide economic
development Partnership and has the economic remit for the Gloucestershire Strategic
The Partnership has a Board Advisory Panel, which acts in an advisory capacity in their
specialist areas and report on and recommend actions. Meetings are held quarterly and
members are drawn from the private sector, local authorities, the voluntary/community sector
and other agencies with economic development responsibilities. The partnership is funded by a
number of partner organisations - the County Council, District Councils, the South West
Regional Development Agency, the Learning & Skills Council Gloucestershire, Business Link
Gloucestershire and private sector sponsorship.
8.5. While the economic partnership will help to strengthen strategic decision
making, there remains a need to build capacity within the Council to
deliver economic development. A number of the recommendations in this
report require the Council to take a lead, for example, raising the awareness
of the regional support services on offer through Business Link and SEEDA
among local businesses. Responsibilities for economic development are
currently shared between one economic development manager, planning
officers, and a tourism manager. In our view, if the strategy is to be
delivered, additional resources are required.
8.6. Clearly, Maidstone also needs to build strategic alliances at a subregional
level. Following the termination of the Channel Corridor Partnership, future
subregional partnership arrangements, and the mechanisms for devolving
SEEDA funding are unclear. These arrangements will be resolved in due
course. For Maidstone, whatever the subregional structure, the challenge
remains the same: to communicate a consistent story about the economic
development priorities for the borough.
29. Establish an economic partnership for Maidstone linked to the LSP.
30. In light of the SNR, Maidstone needs to urgently determine its
relationship with the RDA; determine who it partners with; and what
it‟s approach is to the new Economic Duty.
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The Action Plan
A. DEVELOPING SPECIALISMS: KEY SECTORS
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
Business and Professional Services
1. Engage with local agents/land owners Discussions with local agents – Jan MBC, TCM
to undertake site-by-site appraisals of 2008.
secondary office accommodation and
test the feasibility for conversion, Actions to be agreed as part of town
demolition or refurbishment, as part of centre DPD in accordance with LDF
a comprehensive approach to office timetable.
2. Prepare a prioritised, phased Actions to be agreed as part of town MBC, TCM
programme of office development, centre DPD in accordance with LDF
identifying sites for prime high quality – timetable.
office space in the town centre and for
complementary edge of town
3. Support the networking activities of the Scoping with Professional Hub June- MBC,
Professional Hub, as part of the new Dec 2008 Professional
Local Economic Partnership (see Hub
below) Economic Partnership established by
Retail, Leisure and Culture
4. Following the outcome of the Retail Actions to be agreed as part of town MBC/TCM
Capacity Study, identify the scale and centre DPD in accordance with LDF
type of retail and leisure space – timetable.
required, as part of a comprehensive
5. Attract high quality cultural facilities Implement recommendations from MBC, TCM
befitting a county town and improve the the Bone Wells night time economy
public realm in the town centre. study.
Actions to be agreed as part of town
centre DPD in accordance with LDF
Creative and Media
6. Support the expansion and MBC to factor in to site search and MBC
consolidation of UCCA in Maidstone, respond accordingly to UCCA
and the university’s efforts to develop decision.
its knowledge transfer capacity. UCCA, SEEDA
UCCA to articulate opportunities to
develop knowledge transfer with
support from SEEDA.
7. Test the feasibility of a new Maidstone Initial scoping – July-Oct 2008 MBC, SEEDA
Enterprise Centre with incubation units
suitable for media companies and Feasibility study completed – Jan
exhibition space for the university. 2009
8. Partners should input to the Business Plan finalised by Media Tree
preparation of the new business plan September 2008 Steering
for the Media Tree network to make Group, Pillory
the network sustainable. Barn
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The Rural Economy
9. Undertake further research to Subject to discussion with partners, MBC
understand the nature of the rural commission a business survey with a
economy in Maidstone. Further to this, focus on the rural economy and Kent Rural
consider how regional and county communicate findings with Kent Board
initiatives could better support Rural Board – by April 2009
Maidstone’s rural sector.
10. Include policies in the LDF Core Policies agreed by subgroup to feed MBC
Strategy to support the vitality of rural into the LDF process according to
service centres. timetable.
11. Support the efforts of Mid Kent College MBC to input to Mid Kent College’s Mid Kent
to expand its operations and to proposals – Summer 2008 College, MBC
develop HE provision in the
12. Improve local understanding of the Subject to discussion with partners, MBC, SEEDA
nature of the construction sector in commission a business survey, with
Maidstone and the opportunities to a focus on the construction sector –
capitalise on the sustainability agenda. Jan 2009
Public Sector/Health and Education
13. Identify and promote opportunities for Opportunities to be explored in Urban MBC
new high quality public services to Extension preferred options including
support regeneration in the borough. social infrastructure - end of 2008.
Tourism and the Olympics
14. Implement the main proposals in the See Tourism Strategy. MBC
15. Engage with regional Olympics Olympics proposals published by MBC, SEEDA
programmes to capture the benefits for SEEDA
local people and businesses in
Maidstone. MBC to agree with SEEDA how
regional programmes could benefit
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B. CREATING A MORE INNOVATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL ECONOMY
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
16. Explore the feasibility of a Maidstone As described above in supporting the MBC/ SEEDA
Enterprise Centre – serviced small Creative/Media sector.
business premises – with a possible
focus on creative/media companies.
17. Engage with Business Link to agree a Meeting between MBC, Business Link MBC,
programme of activity relevant to the and SEEDA to identify opportunities Business
Maidstone economy. and agree a programme of tailored Link, SEEDA
18. Support UCCA and Mid Kent College to Agree sites for UCCA consolidation, MBC,
develop knowledge transfer capabilities. and support Mid Kent College in the SEEDA,
development of its new campus. UCCA, Mid
Identify immediate opportunities for Kent College
supporting knowledge transfer
irrespective of .
19. Develop stronger mechanisms for Agree with SEEDA which regional MBC, SEEDA
promoting regional innovation support support services could be targeted at
services locally. Maidstone companies, and how to
promote them more effectively.
C. ATTRACTING AND RETAINING INVESTMENT
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
20. Identify a portfolio of premises to support Portfolio of sites agreed by MBC MBC
investment in key sectors, and ensure a according to LDF timetable
long term pipeline of sites (see also key
21. Clearly define Maidstone’s offer in Revisit service level agreement with LIK
relation to LIK activities and prepare a LIK and agree key sectors for
prospectus as more sites come forward. Maidstone LIK – July 2008
Locate in Maidstone website updated
– Summer 2008. MBC/LIK
Longer term when sites come forward,
implement a more proactive marketing
22. Identify the top 20 businesses for Top 20 businesses identified and MBC/LIK
business retention and, with LiK, develop quarterly/half yearly contact to ensure
stronger client relationships. their needs are being met - by 2009.
D. DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF LIFELONG LEARNING
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
23. Maximise the take up and impact of national According to national timetables KCC
skills programmes including: Train to Gain,
the Skills Pledge and other mainstream To be taken forward by the Economic Economic
initiatives. Support the work of the Local Partnership when established. Partnership
Education Authority and education
providers in preparing for the new Diploma.
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24. Ensure that actions to address NEETS in Key proposals captured in Sustainable MBC/LSP
Shepway and Park Wood are fully Community Strategy – published in
embedded in the Community Strategy. Jan 2009
25. Maximise the regeneration benefits of the MBC to discuss with KCC before the MBC
eventual roll out of the Building Schools for end of 2008 and to consider
the Future programme in Maidstone. implications for land use planning. KCC
26. Continue to work to expand higher MBC to identify shortlist of sites MBC, UCCA,
education provision in the Borough and across the borough – June 2008 Mid Kent
seek to ensure the consolidation of both College,
UCCA and Mid Kent College. SEEDA,
27. Work with Kent County Council to support Actions to be agreed with KCC and MBC
improvement in schools performance at Kent Children’s Trust
GCSE and A-level. KCC
E. TRANSPORT AND CONNECTIVITY
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
28. Continue to lobby DfT, Network Rail and Economic Partnership to keep a MBC
work with KCC to take forward the watching brief on key projects and to
programme of interventions. Priority projects lobby for action.
include: M20, Maidstone Strategic Link and KCC
enhanced rail services. Milestones set out in transport section
of the report.
ACTIONS / MILESTONES LEAD
29. Establish an economic partnership for Initial scoping with partners via the MBC
Maidstone linked to the LSP. LSP– Summer 2008
Terms of reference agreed –November
Economic Partnership up and running
– Jan 2009
30. In light of the SNR, Maidstone needs to MBC and SEEDA agree arrangements SEEDA,
urgently determine its relationship with the for devolution of funding – Summer SEERA, MBC
RDA; determine who it partners with; and 2008
what its approach is to the new Economic
Duty. MBC agrees subregoinal partners –
MBC to submit response to SEERA
Select Committee on SEEDA’s
subregional partnership working –
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Monitoring and Evaluation
8.7. To measure progress towards the actions detailed above each of the actions
will be monitored against the agreed milestones and reported annually to the
new economic partnership.
8.8. In addition, the overall performance of the Maidstone economy will need to
be monitored against a range of relevant datasets. This will provide an
overall measure of the „health‟ of the Maidstone economy and highlight
where further action, or reprioritisation is required.
8.9. An indicative table for monitoring performance of the local economy, and
possible targets, is provided below. This captures the current Kent
Agreement 2 LAA indicators and a number of others where it would be
prudent for the Council to monitor annually.
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KA2 Figure - Figure -
Indicator Source NI Targets to align with? 2010/11 -
NI Maidstone South East
£17,787 SEEDA target: Achieve an average annual increase TARGETS TO
Average annual growth 19,434
ONS No N/A (2007), source: in GVA per capita of at least 3% (at constant BE AGREED
rate in GVA per head (2005)
KCC prices) BY MBC
SEEDA target: Increase productivity by an average
GVA per worker No No £33,700 (2005) 2.4% annually, from £39,000 in 2005 to at least
SEEDA target: 'Increase the business stock by 35%
VAT registered businesses from 35 businesses per 1,000 inhabitants in 2005
ONS Nomis No No 49.44 (2007) 46.11 (2006)
per 1,000 population to 44 per 1,000 inhabitants by 2016, including
10,000 new businesses run by women by 2010.'
KA2 target: Aim to reduce differential on GOSE
New business registration BERR
NI171 Yes N/A N/A level by 2 percentage points on at least one
occasion between 2008 and 2011.
SEEDA target: 'Increase the percentage of total
Patent South East business turnover attributable to new
Patent applications per office, ABI, products from 12% in 2004 to 20% by 2016, and
No No 0.8 (2006) 1.6 (2006)
1000 firms APS, the percentage attributable to significantly
Gavurin improved products from 18% in 2004 to 25% by
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Proportion of population
KA2 target: Still under discussion with GOSE.
aged 19-64 (males) & 19- 68.0%
APS NI163 Yes 65.5% (2006) Suggested improvement by 2% ("or closing the
59 (females) qualified to at (2006)
least level 2 or higher
Proportion of population
aged 19-64 (males) & 19- 49.4% Perhaps use targets derived from SE trends or
APS NI164 No 49.0% (2006)
59 (females) qualified to at (2006) suggest "closing the gap"
least level 3 or higher
Proportion of population
aged 19-64 (males) & 19- 30.5%
APS NI165 No 33.7% (2006)
59 (females) qualified to at (2006)
least level 4 or higher
Employment rate APS NI151 Yes 78.9% (2007)
KA2:DWP looking for improvement in range of 1%
Working age people on out
NI152 Yes N/A to 3%. Kent initially proposed 2%.
of work benefits
(Under discussion with GOSE. – not yet agreed)
16-18 year olds who are
KA2: target has been agreed at 4.8%, but DCSF
not in education,
LSC NI117 Yes 6.4% (2007) 6.1% (2007) requesting it be set below 4.6%. Further
employment or training
discussions under way with GOSE.
KA2: DCSF Statutory Indicator. Currently under
Achievement of 5 or more
DCSF NI75 Yes N/A N/A discussion with DCSF as part of the annual target
A*-C grades at GCSE or
English and Maths
Total (FT & PT) gross £392.70
ASHE NI166 No £376.80 (2007)
weekly workplace wages (2007)
Total (FT & PT) Gross £407.90
ASHE No No £426.80 (2007)
weekly residential wages (2007)
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Theories of Regional Competitiveness
9.1. Broadly, there are six not mutually exclusive theories of how this may be
achieved. They focus on:
The tradable economic base of regions – the notion that the
prosperity of a region is determined by the strength of its export base,
i.e. those activities which bring income in to the region by providing a
good or service („tradables‟) to the outside world (see Rowthorn,
Increasing returns and agglomeration economies – the theory
that certain regions may possess superior technological, social,
infrastructural or institutional assets, that are external to, but which
benefit individual firms. These theories are concerned with
demonstrating how local competitive advantage is strengthened by the
spatial agglomeration of economic activity – the accumulation of
skilled labour, the growth of support industries and services, and
knowledge transfer and spillovers (see Fujita, Krugman, and Venables,
Endogenous growth models - knowledge and innovation
theories – theories which also stress the importance of increasing
returns, but with a particular focus on innovation for driving
technological progress and human capital. Endogenous growth theory
thus directs policy towards developing a highly skilled workforce and
creating a culture of innovation.
Cluster theories – one of the most influential theories in recent
years, based on the hypothesis that productivity is raised as a result of
interactions between interlinked groups of firms in geographic
proximity and therefore the importance of business and social
networks - export orientated clusters are thought to be the most
significant (see Porter 1990, 1998, 2000).
Cultural economy theories – a number of different cultural theories
exist which suggest competitiveness is a function of: favourable social,
cultural and institutional arrangements; quality of life – including an
abundance of cultural facilities which attract skilled labour,
entrepreneurs and innovative firms; and the presence of a „creative
class‟ reflecting the growth in creative and cultural economic activity
(see Florida, 2002).
Evolutionary theory – drawing on elements of the above but also
stressing the path dependent nature of economic development (i.e.
history matters) and the mechanisms by which some cities and regions
are able to adapt to changing economic, technological and institutional
circumstances (see Martin, Kitson and Tyler, 2006).
9.2. It is important to note that policies tend to focus on creating the supply side
conditions for growth, with the broad assumption that if the „drivers‟ are in
place then demand for a region‟s products and services will follow. However,
as Porter and others have noted, demand for a region‟s products is not
simply an end result but also an important „driver‟ of competitiveness itself.
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9.3. In a somewhat circular argument, without sufficient demand, enterprise,
innovation and investment will be constrained. In this respect, local policy
makers rely on favourable macroeconomic conditions determined to a larger
extent at a national level. Thus, we must be mindful that the global and
national economic climate will affect the pace of development in terms of
private sector investment (i.e. the growth of existing businesses, investment
in residential and commercial property markets, etc).
LDF Core Strategy Preferred Options Vision
9.4. Detailed below is the Maidstone LDF Core Strategy vision for the future of
Maidstone, as documented on page 7 of the Preferred Options paper.
“To increase the economic, social and environmental well being of Maidstone Borough
through spatial planning policies and allocations of land for development, which will:
create a prosperous Borough
provide and adequate number, range and mix of housing
provide a range of social, leisure and retail facilities
This will be done in a manner that enhances and protects the environment and locates
development in a sustainable pattern and gives a choices of travel mode in order to
minimise congestion and pollution.
This is dependent on the:
timely provision of the strategic and local infrastructure
raising standards of service delivery and environmental management and
managing development to achieve balanced economic and housing growth.
This will enable Maidstone to have a distinct identity as the 21 st Century County Town at
the centre of Kent.”
Kent International Gateway
Kent International Gateway (KIG) Ltd
submitted an application to develop a
Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI),
warehousing and commercial development
to the south east of Maidstone, and has
made a representation in respect of this for
the Core Strategy.
The 112.3 hectare area proposed for
development is shown above. The left-hand
end of the development ends at Thurnham Lane, whilst the right-hand ends at the
roundabout on the A20 for junction 8 of the M20. The site meets the M20 in the
north and the railway line in Bearsted in the South.
List of stakeholders
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9.5. A programme of face-to-face interviews was conducted with 32 stakeholders
between January and April 2008. We would like to thank the following
individuals for giving up their time to contribute to the strategy:
Name Title Organisation
1 Kate Greenaway Area Manager SEEDA
2 Clair Fisher Area Lead for Kent & Medway GOSE
3 Ahmad Eslami Kent & Medway LSC Lead Learning Skills Council
4 Janice Wason Executive Director Channel Corridor Partnership
5 Chris Callander Area Manager - Channel Corridor Business Link Kent
6 Tony Bartlett Business Link Kent
7 Paul Wookey Chief Executive Locate in Kent
8 Megan McKibbin Executive Director Kent Economic Board
9 Chris Jones Mid-Kent Area Schools Officer Mid-Kent Area Schools Offices
Economic Development Policy
10 Steve Arnett Kent County Council
Economic Development Policy
11 Peter Welsh Kent County Council
12 Liz Craven Rural Regeneration Manager Kent County Council
Community Planning Co-
13 Jim Boot Maidstone Borough Council
14 Laura Dickson Tourism Manager Maidstone Borough Council
15 Michael Thornton Policy & Environment Manager Maidstone Borough Council
Maidstone Borough Council (on
16 Peter Rosevear Transport Planning
secondment from KCC)
17 Trevor Gasson Deputy Chief Executive Maidstone Borough Council
Maidstone Town Centre
18 Bill Moss Town Centre Manager
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Director of Construction and
19 Peter Webb Mid-Kent College
20 Jane Jones Vice Principal Mid-Kent College
University College for the Creative
21 Claire Mussell Head of College, Maidstone
Kent Invicta Chamber of Kent Invicta Chamber of
23 Ivan White Chairman Federation of Small Businesses
24 Madeleine Thomson Senior Partner, ASB Law Professional Hub/ASB Law
Commercial Property Expert,
25 John Wilkins Hindwoods Hunter Payne
M25 & Kent
26 Geoff Miles Managing Director Maidstone Studios
27 Charlotte Brooks Associate Director EDAW
28 Sophie White Associate Partner Drivers Jonas
Tonbridge and Malling Borough
29 Mark Raymond Economic Development Manager
30 Daryl Jones Economic Development Manager Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
31 Kieren Mansfield Economic Development Manager Swale Borough Council
32 Andrew Osborne Economic Development Manager Ashford Borough Council
9.6. We would also like to thank those individuals who attended our Visioning and
Strategy Development Workshops.
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