Published: 08:01, 05 March 2018
| Updated: 08:42, 05 March 2018
Shoppers could soon be enjoying an Aussie-style barbie in the sunshine after a retailer announced plans for a gigantic new store.
Developer Davies Street Castle City has revealed the plan for a 50,000 sq ft store on land near junction 9 of the M20 at Ashford.
The site could become home to Australian home improvements and garden centre firm Bunnings, and would be the company’s first purpose built store in the UK.
It would become a neighbour to the nearby John Lewis at Home store and would be accessed via the same junction near Drovers roundabout.
And Davies Street Castle City says new customers could enjoy a true taste of the Australian summer, as Bunnings will host a weekly “sausage sizzle” barbecue at the front of the store to raise money for charities.
The developer said: “If the scheme is accepted and consent is granted, we will begin construction next year and the new stores could be open in the summer of 2019.
“Ashford will be Bunnings’ first purpose built store in the UK and will offer customers home improvement and garden products from a wide range of global market-leading brands, at everyday low prices.
“The scheme will provide a step change in the home improvement market and help keep expenditure in Ashford. It will deliver jobs and investment as well as choice and competition for shoppers.”
Bunnings bought out struggling retailer Homebase in 2016 at a cost of £340 million, and has since opened 12 of its own warehouse stores. It currently employs more than 10,000 workers in the UK.
Artists’ impressions of the site reveal the giant new store would be built in a wave shape and would use natural materials to complement the nearby woods.
It would be joined by a a 37,000 sq ft retail terrace containing four units for kitchen and furniture companies. The site would also have room for a 2,000 sq ft unit and a drive through coffee shop.
The type of retailers which could open stores there would be restricted by Ashford Borough Councils planning rules, to prevent a negative impact on the town centre.
The site had previously been mooted as the possible location for a park and ride bus service to serve the town.
But Ashford Borough Council leader Gerry Clarkson said the Drovers Retail Park plan was exciting for shoppers, and will complement the existing John Lewis at Home store.
He said: “The Drovers roundabout has good road interconnections. That's what out of town retailers want, they need good parking facilities and roads for people to drive there.
"The site has been productive for John Lewis, and now we are delighted that Davies Street Castle City is looking at the site. I met the developers and in principle the scheme is to be welcomed.
"We have to be cautious, as the scheme is yet to come before our planning committee. We have to be smart on this.
“It means we can’t have stores of the same type as we have got in the town centre. These developments are always subject to the proper planning approvals and we will keep an open mind.
“We will see if the plans meet the high standards we need and if they fit with the overall economic strategy we have for Ashford.”