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The Coachworks

Published : 02/07/2019

An ambitious project by one of the UK’s leading architects to create an exciting urban design scheme in the heart of Ashford town centre is taking shape.

A cluster of former industrial buildings 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.

Enabling work to prepare the buildings for transformation was completed earlier 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 artworks – is being 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 is subtly illuminated 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 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. 

Carl Turner and Cllr ClokieCllr 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 a 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 people into the town from far and wide.”

Carl Turner and Cllr ClokieCarl 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 delighted 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,” said Carl. 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. We will soon be announcing a series of summer events and if you are interested in becoming part of Coachworks look out for our shout-outs for food traders, jobs and workspaces.”

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.

For more information about Carl Turner Architects visit www.ct-architects.co.uk