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TV and film studio plan for Ashford railway works in Newtown Road

By Dan Wright

TV studios and a new hotel could be built at a former railway works which has sat derelict for years.

Development company Quinn Estates has bought the prominent site in Newtown Road, Ashford.

It is planning a bold new scheme which could see the former engine sheds turned into TV and potentially film studio space.

How the railway works site could look
How the railway works site could look

A hotel, retail and leisure complex is also planned, as well as a residential quarter.

Mark Quinn, CEO and chairman of Quinn Estates, says the project is led by his company and funded by property developer U+I.

He said: "Although it has been sat derelict for a long time, the Ashford railway works is a beacon of the town's industrial past and we are very excited to share plans to bring it back to life, centred around the Grade II-listed locomotive buildings on site.

How the site currently looks. Picture: Chris Davey
How the site currently looks. Picture: Chris Davey

"We are in the very early stages of this and look forward to working with Ashford Borough Council and the area ward members in this exciting phase of regeneration, which has the potential to hugely benefit the people of Ashford in terms of jobs, economic investment and regeneration.

"This is a site that fires the imagination – taking the form of an arcade, the linear structure lends itself to a variety of uses where imagination and drive can create innovation out of dereliction.

"Our plans include a vibrant mixed-use space of 500,000 sq ft - which could include TV and potential film studio space - along with a hotel, new retail and leisure space, a residential quarter, and plenty of green spaces and public realm."

How the former railway works currently look inside
How the former railway works currently look inside

Built in 1847, the site was created to serve the London Dover Railway.

It grew over the next 100 years as it took on more work from Battersea and, although damaged in the Second World War, it remained a locomotive works until 1962 when the work was transferred to Eastleigh.

Many of the buildings were demolished over the next 20 years and what remains is the shell of the original workshops.

The railway works in 1949. Picture: Steve Salter
The railway works in 1949. Picture: Steve Salter

Mr Quinn added: "Set over 12 acres, the site is adjacent to the Ashford International train station which provides fast trains to London St Pancras in 38 minutes, and adjacent to the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet.

"The Ashford railway works is a place where heritage and modern living come together.

“We’ll be working on this scheme alongside Guy Hollaway Architects and U+I, both of which we’ve demonstrated successful partnerships with previously on major schemes.”

A map of the site
A map of the site

James Bishop, director of acquisitions at U+I, said: “We are delighted to be continuing our work in Ashford, where we are already involved with three projects which will help create new and vibrant places in the town centre.

"We look forward to continuing our relationship with Quinn Estates at the Ashford railway works to revive a key part of Ashford’s industrial heritage.”

Earlier this year, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) missed out on £10m of government cash to buy the railway works land.

The works in 1949. Picture: Steve Salter
The works in 1949. Picture: Steve Salter

The authority submitted the £10m bid to the government’s housing infrastructure fund (HIF), which was part of a £2.3billion pot offering money to local authorities to help build new homes.

The Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre (AIMREC) plan was at the centre of the bid, with bosses hoping the attraction could be built on the land.

AIMREC chief executive Cliff Parsons said in January how the centre would have opened in spring 2021 if the bid had proved successful.

The former Ashford railway works
The former Ashford railway works

It would have gone across 60,000 sq ft and was expected to attract up to 500,000 visitors a year.

Bosses behind the AIMREC proposal had gained planning permission in 2016 to build the attraction on the former Klondyke works site on the other side of Newtown Road.

But tests found the land close to the Designer Outlet was contaminated and unsuitable for development so leaders behind the proposal had to find a new site.

The Klondyke site is now going to be turned into a residential development.

Ninety-three apartments in seven separate blocks are to be built on the site, made up of one and two-bed flats.

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