Published: 11:22, 17 January 2019
| Updated: 12:11, 17 January 2019
By Georgia Woolf and Charlie Harman
Plans to regenerate a group of derelict industrial buildings and turn them into a space capable of showing theatre performances and cinema screenings have been unanimously approved at a council meeting.
Ashford Borough Council is looking to transform three buildings, including a former corn store, into a new leisure complex next to the Cameo nightclub.
The Coachworks scheme is a development with a five-year lifespan as the land is set to become the second phase of the Commercial Quarter in later years.
The area would be divided into four zones, consisting of a food and drink hall, office space and a performance area.
The former theatre building, which has sat empty since the Ashford Youth Theatre left the site in 2016, is set to be rebranded as 'The Hothouse'.
The 5,500 sq ft building will become the centrepiece of the project - featuring an eye-catching mezzanine level and transforming into a lantern at night.
The three-storey former corn store will be converted into a business base with start-up work spaces and shared facilities, hosting up to 200 people.
Part of the outdoor area (The Event Yard) will feature tiered seating, ideal for theatre and cinema performances, live sports screenings or 'somewhere to sit in the sun and have a beer' during the summer months.
It will cost the council around £650,000 to renovate and convert the buildings in Dover Place.
Despite the cost and the relatively short lifespan, councillors fully backed the project during last night's planning committee meeting.
Councillor Graham Galpin, portfolio holder for corporate property, said: "The proposal would be a dramatic and enormous improvement on what sits there at the moment, and would provide the services needed for a 21st century area in our town.
"It will be of massive value to the town and I'm sure it will provide the working and cultural space that's required fill a new development.
"As for the value for money, there's nothing as permanent as temporary."
Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson echoed this statement, saying: "Councillor Galpin is quite right. They call it a 'meanwhile use' but having researched this there are other projects in areas of London that have this 'meanwhile use', but they've been there for 15 years.
"They are so popular, and do nothing but grow in popularity. The younger people love this sort of thing, so I'm propoosing we accept the officers advice.
"It's exciting and I think the value for money makes it relatively cheap - it will be used and improve what's there."
The council submitted plans for the short-term project in September and hope to have the site up and running by the summer.
Carl Turner Architects has been commissioned by the council to draw up the plan.
The architect company has previously worked on similar regeneration projects, including 'Pop Brixton' in South London.
Described by the company as a 'mini city of culture', the work and leisure complex was developed on a 2,000sqm brownfield site in 2015.
To view the planning application online visit: www.ashford.gov.uk and search 18-01369-AS.