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Look inside abandoned Newtown rail works in Ashford which could soon be home to Netflix, Amazon and HBO

ByCharlie Harman

As Quinn Estates prepares to submit a planning application for its ambitious film studio that could include entertainment giants such as Netflix, Amazon, and HBO could fill the studios KentOnline reporter Charlie Harman got a rare chance to look around the Newtown rail works.

With work having stopped in 1972, this huge site in Ashford now stands as a glorified pigeon loft, with a carpet of moss and guano softening the sound of footsteps.

The derelict and rubble-strewn rail works still has signs of its former glory days. Pictures by Steve Salter
The derelict and rubble-strewn rail works still has signs of its former glory days. Pictures by Steve Salter

Every piece of equipment has been taken out and very few visual clues remain of its proud heritage as one of England's largest train manufacturers.

What's left is an old turntable, tracks barely visible through the concrete floor, fluorescent jackets and signs warning of the improper use of saws.

The high brickwork walls have been transformed into a living testament to the power of nature to reclaim land - plants having seeped through the cracks, wallpapering the mammoth structure.

There is no doubt Quinn Estates will have to carry out major restorative work, but I was ensured by my guide that the building's integrity will be unaffected.

As much as it's needed, I was a tad disheartened at the idea that this urban explorer's paradise would lose all of its eery charm.

Unlit bathrooms with original fittings still remain, as do signs reading 'warning: live cables' and huge cranes where the 'small hook' weighs in at three tonnes.

A redundant overhead traverser sits above what was originally the locomotive erecting shop
A redundant overhead traverser sits above what was originally the locomotive erecting shop

Thankfully the developers are hoping to retain as many of these glimpses of the past as possible, while regenerating grand church-like windows.

During the tour, it's at times hard to imagine the future.

An end shed will be filled with homes, and a room resembling an indoor garden will take on a role as a filming stage.

It's no wonder the developers been approached by producers to film on the site in its current state.

It wasn't hard to imagine a zombie horde thundering through the extensive hallways, or see Ridley Scott's Alien crawling spider-like across the walls towards its prey.

But, sadly, this won't be happening, with safety concerns serving as an obstacle to these visions.

Old features are dotted around the building, including redundant and weathered electrical installations
Old features are dotted around the building, including redundant and weathered electrical installations

The roof is in dire need of replacement and one of the two sheds is set to see a vertical expansion in the film studio scheme, meaning the complete removal of the glass ceiling.

Also, some of the walls would need censoring, as decades of trespass have led to some explicit graffiti.

However some of the illegal 'art' really adds to the creepy experience of walking around this mausoleum-like monument.

As you turn one corner, you're confronted by a jet black, human-sized figure with elongated fingers.

Faces are scribbled over the cold store unit and indelible lovehearts with initials remain from relationships probably long-since over.

One building which remains largely untouched is the small end shed which will be converted into a Canterbury Goods Shed-type restaurant and food shop.

Reporter Charlie Harman, left, was shown around by Quinn Estates' Josh Wilson-Holliday
Reporter Charlie Harman, left, was shown around by Quinn Estates' Josh Wilson-Holliday

I'm sure it will look incredible with some TLC, as will the rest of the building.

Outside, the yard stretches out like a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Rocks and piles of rubble are strewn sporadically between huge potholes, and every step must be carefully picked out so as not to sprain your ankle.

While there's a lot of work needed both inside and out, I'm very excited to see how the site will be turned around.

Years of neglect have added a strange, surreal beauty to the place, but it would be a lie to say I'm not excited to see the hustle and bustle of a film set come to this iconic Ashford site.

Quinn Estates wants to build four film studios at the site, as well as 300 apartments, a hotel and workshops.

How the Newtown works could look, with the four studios in the foreground
How the Newtown works could look, with the four studios in the foreground

The studios will go in new buildings just off Newtown Road, while the historic buildings KentOnline was taken on a tour of will become a mixture of residential and commercial.

Extensive retail units, a six-storey car park and a production office set to be more than five storeys tall will also be constructed.

Bosses are talking to numerous entertainment giants including Netflix, Amazon and HBO about taking on the studios, which Quinn Estates says could become a “major European filming hub”.

A planning application was expected to be submitted last week, but is yet to appear on the Ashford Borough Council website.

Quinn Estates is working with The Creative District Improvement Co (TCDICo), which currently has a £500 million portfolio comprising similar projects.

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