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Coachworks leisure complex in Dover Place, Ashford, set to open in August

The first part of a new town centre leisure complex is weeks away from opening as work continues to transform the rest of the site.

Contractors are turning three disused buildings in Dover Place, Ashford into a mixed-use food, leisure and business complex after plans submitted by Ashford Borough Council (ABC) were approved earlier this year.

Work began in April and the first phase of the £850,000 regeneration project - branded The Coachworks - is on track to open on Saturday, August 10.

Architect Carl Turner. Picture: Paul Amos
Architect Carl Turner. Picture: Paul Amos

Council bosses have previously said the development will only have a five-year lifespan as the land is due to become the second phase of the Commercial Quarter in later years, but the time period could be extended if it is a success.

Carl Turner Architects, which is behind successful regeneration schemes in London, has drawn up the design plan for the site - which will be divided into three zones consisting of a food and drink destination, business hub and outdoor area.

The Event Yard - an outdoor space which will be used for cinema and live sports screenings - will be the first area to open.

The Coachworks development is taking shape. Picture: Paul Amos
The Coachworks development is taking shape. Picture: Paul Amos

A number of shipping containers have been placed at the rear of the yard and are soon to be filled with tenants serving up an array of street food, including Asian food, wood-fire pizzas and burgers.

Prices of food units range from £800 to £1,000, depending on outdoor or indoor location.

Decking has also been installed throughout the outdoor area, which will be used for vintage clothes sales, food markets, predominately acoustic music events and council-run functions.

The former youth theatre will be transformed into a lantern at night
The former youth theatre will be transformed into a lantern at night

One derelict building on the Coachworks site will remain boarded-up and used in future redevelopment.

It will be used to form a backdrop in the Event Yard and will be covered in artwork and posters.

The three-storey former Corn Store - which is being converted into a start-up business base with office space and co-working facilities for up to 200 people - is set to open at the end of September.

Dubbed The Platform, the business hub will offer flexible co-working space, offices and meeting rooms, with prices ranging from £150 to more than £1,000 a month.

Inside the business base. Picture: Paul Amos
Inside the business base. Picture: Paul Amos

The Hothouse will be the final building to be completed, with an official opening of The Coachworks scheme planned for the end of October.

The 5,500 sq ft building - which was the former base of the Ashford Youth Theatre - will form the centrepiece of the project - featuring an eye-catching mezzanine level and transforming into a lantern at night.

The roof has been dismantled and will be replaced with translucent cladding, with four food kitchens installed inside the building, which is expected to house around 200 people.

The former Ashford Youth Theatre building is being developed into a new food and drink hall. Picture: Paul Amos
The former Ashford Youth Theatre building is being developed into a new food and drink hall. Picture: Paul Amos

Bosses are in the process of recruiting about 150 people to operate the site, including security staff, a maintenance team, office workers and food and drink tenants.

Architect Carl Turner said: "There's a missing link between the town centre and train station and this is a different type of space that doesn't really exist in Ashford at the moment.

"We hope it will become a bit of a living room for Ashford.

"I think it is going to be really successful and if it is a success, it could be around longer than five years.

"Work was delayed to start with and we have had to reverse plans. We did want the Hot House open first but now we are getting the yard open first to catch some summer traffic.

"There will be a programme events that will drive footfall into the site and we will be having a lot of events targetting different groups.

"We are also trying to maximise the amount of space we have got for people to do business in. I think there will be a slower uptake of the co-work space as it is a new concept for Ashford."

The Coachworks Project (2836101)
The Coachworks Project (2836101)

The Platform business base will be open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.

All other areas, including food and drink stations, will be open accessible from 9am to midnight Monday to Saturday, closing at 11pm on Sundays.

On the opening weekend planned for Saturday, August 10, the Event Yard will open from 11am to midnight.

To keep up-to-date with the project, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford

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