NEWS 19 Coachworks project in Ashford gathers pace

An ambitious project by one of the UK’s leading architects to create an exciting urban design scheme in the heart of a Kent town centre is taking shape. A cluster of former industrial

buildings in Ashford, owned by Ashford Borough Council, are being transformed 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 building repurposing projects in London such as Pop Brixton and Peckham Levels – has been engaged by the council to design, deliver and manage the project, which will breathe new life into disused buildings in Dover

Place, close to the town’s international railway station. E n a b l i n g wo r k t o

prepare the bui ldings for transformat ion was completed ear l ier this summer, and now Carl Turner’s team is on site undertaking ‘light touch refurbishment’ with minimal alteration to the fabric of the buildings. The cost of delivering the

project is less than £1m and the Coachworks is expected to open later this year. It will have several distinct spaces: • The Hothouse: the former Ashford Youth Theatre building, empty since 2016 and known to Ashfordians for its distinctive external artwork s , i s being t ransformed 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 is subtly illuminated at night;

Originally used by corn merchants, architects are breathing new life into old buildings in Ashford

• 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 Event Yard: an open-air space which is ideal for events such as theatre, cinema and live sports screenings. Food and drink ‘pods’ will be located here. There will be the option of projecting films onto the walls of surrounding buildings.

Cllr Paul Clokie, Ashford

Borough Council portfolio holder for corporate property and regeneration, has praised Carl Turner 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 corn merchants. He said: “Drawing on

Ashford’s rich history as a centre of trade, the scheme provides 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 popular and draw

Carl Turner (left) discusses the project with Cllr Paul Clokie

people into the town from far and wide.” Carl Turner said the walls

in the building where the food and drink hub is located will be re-clad in a profiled polycarbonate sheeting, giving the building a gentle glow at night. “We are del ighted to

start work and we will be pulling out all the stops to get the central yard and event space open to catch the summer sun,” Mr Turner said. Decking is being laid ready for large planters and food and drink pop-ups to be sited in the open-air yard. “This will be the first

of three phases, with the second phase of creative

workspaces opening late summer and the indoor food, drink and event space in the old Youth Theatre opening in the autumn.” 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. While the Coachworks

is scheduled to have a five year lifespan, this may be extended if the project proves to be as successful as anticipated, say the council.


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