For several years local councillors have been working with District Council officers to press the landowners to produce a strategy for investment, to focus on enhancing the shopping offer and regenerate the worn out fabric. Such a strategy might include refurbishment or redevelopment in whole or part depending upon the viability of the proposals. It must take account of the community's view that the Centre should be redeveloped to modern standards, keeping convenience shopping but also introducing other uses.
When, in December 2007, Budgens announced their intention to close the centre’s supermarket, the Council’s Chief Executive was able to persuade the Board of the Co-operative Society, the store’s owners, to refurbish and reopen it as a Co-operative store.
At the same time the District Council continued to press the other landowners to take immediate steps to improve security at the Centre, reduce the potential for vandalism, and improve its cleanliness. Initially all three landowners committed themselves to work together, with the assistance of the Council, to produce a Strategy and Master Plan, setting out options for discussion with the local community and other interested parties, as to how the Village Centre might be regenerated.
By the end of 2008 progress was stalling and the landowners, other than the Co-operative, were proving difficult to engage further. The Council continued to press them to set out their intentions and undertake vital work. The Co-operative carried out the work but there are still significant maintenance issues so the Council and its partners are now pursuing enforcement action against the other owners under the Health and Safety at Work and Planning Acts. The Council's CCTV system in the Centre has been upgraded with the latest state of-the-art technology and its 13 cameras now have the ability to tilt and pan in all directions working in full colour with a powerful zoom. All the images from the cameras are digitally recorded and can be used by the police as evidence in the event of a crime.
Following recent consultations on the Local Development Framework, information provided by residents and councillors has been taken into account in the Council's Core Strategy. The Core Strategy has now been approved and will guide future development in the District, including the regeneration of New Ash Green Village Centre, over the next 20 years. The inclusion of the Centre in the Core Strategy should make the area more attractive to future developers and investors.
It was recognised at the start that securing a solution to the Village Centre’s problems would not be straightforward and would require patience and considerable investment. This has proved to be true; indeed it has been made worse by the deteriorating national economic situation and the shortage of investment money in public and private bodies. The District Council remains committed to working proactively with all the community interests to achieve an acceptable long-term outcome whilst continuing to pursue the current maintenance and health and safety issues.
Your local Conservative councillors intend to work alongside the Council's officers, pressing for the regeneration of an economically sustainable New Ash Green Village Centre with a mix of uses including residential, retail, employment, leisure, and community activities that will meet local needs and respect New Ash Green's unique environment within its legal and management structure.