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New schemes launched to support businesses in the borough

Published: 10/11/2023
Applications and Grants

Ashford Borough Council has launched three new schemes to support businesses in Ashford Town Centre and the wider borough. 

Ashford Town Centre Business Grants

The new town centre business grants scheme, will provide businesses the opportunity to apply for funding support to bring empty premises back into use and enable improvements to their current properties.

Following on from the success of the Ashford Town Centre Support Grant in 2021/22, Cabinet agreed in July, to use £140,000 of section 106 funding (from the Designer Outlet expansion) to deliver this grants scheme.

Proposed benefits of the scheme include increased footfall, decreased vacancy rates, improved business resilience for successful applicants and positive news stories for the Town Centre.

The Ashford Town Centre Business Grant provides support to landlords or tenants to make improvements to their business premises and attract investment.

There are two grant schemes: The Shop Improvement Grant and the Empty Premises Grant. Both could help cover 60% of the eligible costs of works.

  • The Shop Improvement Grant could provide up to £3,000 for work that needs to be carried out such as repairs, renovations, shopfront works energy efficiency improvements or accessibility improvements.
  • The Empty Premises Grant could provide up to £10,000 for bringing an empty town centre unit back into use.

Apply here for Business Grants

The deadline for this round of applications is Sunday 10 December 2023. 

The other two schemes are both Government funded through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and are aimed at supporting businesses not just in Ashford Town Centre but also the wider borough.

Ashford Borough Voluntary, Community, and Social Enterprise Support programme

The council has joined forces with Social Enterprise Kent to launch an initiative aimed at providing critical support to the thriving community of charities and social enterprises within the Ashford Borough.

With more than 160 charities and social enterprises already operating in the region, these organisations play a pivotal role in fostering social and economic growth. However, many leaders in these sectors seek professional business expertise and guidance to enhance their operations effectively. They are eager for private consultations with experienced advisors, as well as opportunities for peer learning and networking.

In order to support this need, £50,000 of UKSPF funding has been secured to procure the services of a seasoned Senior Business Advisor who over the next 18 months will collaborate to support 40 existing and start-up charities and social enterprises. The Senior Business Advisor will provide personalised, one-on-one mentoring for these organisations and their teams. The initiative will also include training and workshop courses, networking sessions, and a dedicated conference.

To learn more about this transformative initiative and how it will empower Ashford's charities and social enterprises, please visit the Social Enterprise Kent website.

On the Map: Ashford and Tenterden’s Visitor Economy Programme

The council has also joined forces with Visit Kent to launch the On the Map project which has been designed to support the development of new visitor experiences that showcase the incredible local produce available in the borough. The aim is to create exciting new products and experiences by linking together different types of visitor economy businesses – both existing and start-ups.

The free programme of support will include:

  • 1-2-1 consultation with business development experts
  • A series of training workshops on topics including pricing & packaging, audience mapping and PR
  • Support to develop partnerships with opportunities to collaborate with like-minded businesses
  • Advice on funding
  • Creation of new promotional assets including photography and video footage for the business
  • The new experience will feature in a dedicated marketing campaign in Spring 2024 and be added to the new digital wine trail map

You can find out more about the project on Visit Kent’s website.