Dover is on the up. Unfortunately a few dim-witted keyboard warriors are determined to talk our town down. An online list last week ranked Dover as the 10th worst town in the UK. Yet what do these internet trolls know?
Because the truth is that our town is on the up. The long shadow cast by Burlington House has gone. That hated building was torn down following a long campaign. A new cinema and shops are rising in its place. We have seen more than £400 million invested in recent years.
Everyone knows we've been battling for the St James development for a long time. It's not been easy. Just last week problems arose over getting the scheme connected to electricity. So I held crunch talks with the power suppliers and the council – and I'm pleased the switch-on date was rapidly moved forwards. The sooner the St James scheme opens, with hundreds of people starting new jobs and thousands more visitors attracted to our town, the better.
House prices are on the up too. The latest figures show that they are rising at 11.8% in Dover, nearly double the Kent average of 6.5%. We're working hard to match the demand by delivering more affordable, family homes at places like Connaught Barracks. Of course we have to battle the grumblers who try to stop all building and seek to hold our area back.
More and more people want to move here. And why wouldn't they? There's our world-famous history – our castle, iconic White Cliffs and Roman Painted House. Then there's our transport links. You can get to London in an hour on the fast train, or just as easily jump on a ferry to France.
In town we have some great independent shops and cafes. We are also overflowing with brilliant micropubs, from the Mash Tun in Bench Street to the Breakwater Brewery in Lorne Road – where I enjoyed a delicious pint of ale last week. With St James opening within weeks, we need to do all we can to support these businesses. That's why I'm fully backing Dover District Council's plans to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in the "old town".
Along our stunning seafront, the port have an ambitious vision for a brand new marina with shops and bars. This will be great for Dovorians and draw in yet more visitors.
There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. One of the challenges ahead is to find a way of linking the old town, St James and the seafront. Yet if we put our minds to it, I know it can be done.
No-one thought Burlington House would ever come down. The doubters were proved wrong then – we can prove them wrong again.
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