£650,000 plan to transform disused industrial buildings into food, drink, event space and start-up business hub
Planning approval has been granted for The Coachworks in Ashford, an exciting urban design scheme in the heart of the town.
Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee last night (16 January) gave the green light to the transformation of land known as “the Island Site” into a mixed-use campus called The Coachworks. It will provide a co-working space aimed at start-up businesses, flexible indoor and outdoor event space and a food and drink destination showcasing local producers and suppliers.
Multi-award winning Carl Turner Architects – which is responsible for some of the most innovative and ground-breaking projects in London – has been engaged by the council to design, deliver and manage the project, which is destined to breathe new life into disused industrial buildings in Dover Place, close to the international train station.
The authority purchased the site in 2014 when it acquired the nearby International House.
By undertaking ‘light touch refurbishment’ with minimal alteration to the fabric of the buildings, the cost of delivering the project is set at £650,000, and The Coachworks could be open as early as this autumn. When open, it will comprise four distinct spaces:
- The Hothouse – the former Ashford Youth Theatre building, empty since 2016 and known to Ashfordians for its distinctive external artworks – will be transformed into a feast of food and drinks outlets, with event space added. An eye-catching mezzanine level bar will be created providing seating overlooking the indoor events area. The building will become a big greenhouse that acts as a lantern at night;
- The Platform – the three-storey Corn Store will be converted into a ‘business incubator’ with start-up work spaces and shared facilities. It is big enough to host up to 200 people across the flexible space;
- The Loggia – Sandwiched between the two buildings is a large open air space that will be subdivided to create two zones, a Loggia or covered structure providing a grand entrance to the site and acting as a series of sheltered outdoor rooms plus;
- The Event Yard – an open-air space which is ideal for events such as theatre, cinema and live sports screenings. This will have tiered timber seating, with the option of projecting films onto the walls of the surrounding buildings.
After councillors voted to approve the plans, Stewart Smith, senior development and regeneration manager at Ashford Borough Council, praised Carl Turner Architects for delivering “a stunning response” to the brief to find an imaginative new use for industrial buildings that date back to 1846, and were originally used by a corn merchants.
He said: “Drawing on Ashford’s rich history as a centre of trade, these proposals provide a platform for the next generation of cultural and creative innovators. The mixed-use campus provides a variety of work, performance and leisure space for people to enjoy.
“There is nothing else like this in Ashford and across the region and I’m confident that The Coachworks is going to prove hugely popular and draw people into the town from far and wide.
“There is so much to admire in the ideas presented by Carl Turner. For example, the walls in the building where the food and drink hub is located will be re-clad in a profiled polycarbonate sheeting, which transforms the building into a huge lantern at night.”
The inspiration for The Coachworks name comes from a firm of coachbuilders who were based there for 30 years from the 1960s; Crofords Carriages counted the Royal household and Harrods among its customers and the company still operates from Ashford today.
The Coachworks scheme is termed a ‘meanwhile’ development and it’s anticipated that it will have a five year lifespan. This is the interim use of land or buildings for which the long-term plan is yet to be decided. Without this investment in The Coachworks, the site would remain undeveloped and play no part in the current development of Ashford town centre.
Planning consent has been granted subject to a number of conditions, including adopting measures to limit noise, provision of adequate cycle parking, and agreeing details of external signage and lighting.