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How planners turned CGIs into reality at some of Kent's large-scale projects including Ashford Designer Outlet

Shopping centre bosses cut the ribbon on the multi-million pound Ashford Designer Outlet expansion yesterday - unveiling an enlarged centre which looks almost identical to the original plans.

Here we look back at a mix of residential, leisure and retail developments across Kent and how they compare to their artists impressions.

Ashford

Ashford Designer Outlet

The Ashford Designer Outlet has been a popular attraction since opening in 2000.

Due to its popularity, chiefs at McArthurGlen - which owns the shopping complex - announced expansion plans in November 2013.

Artists impressions of the £90 million outlet expansion
Artists impressions of the £90 million outlet expansion
The completed outlet along Newtown Road in Ashford
The completed outlet along Newtown Road in Ashford

Planning approval was granted in September 2015, with work starting in January last year.

After two years of construction work, shopping centre bosses cut the ribbon on the £90 million extension yesterday.

It includes 50 new designer brands and eateries, an interactive children's playground and Europe's largest living wall.

Minor changes have been made to the plans as all that appears to be missing is designer labels on the buildings.

CGI of The Garden of England playground. Picture: McArthurGlen Designer Outlet
CGI of The Garden of England playground. Picture: McArthurGlen Designer Outlet
The £400,000 play area opened earlier this year
The £400,000 play area opened earlier this year

Ashford College

Early images of Ashford College look largely different to the prominent town centre building which exists today.

South Kent College bosses first revealed plans to construct a four-storey £46 million pound college in Victoria Road in 2007 - but this was later scrapped.

Original plans for the college in Victoria Park. Picture: Sandy Fleming
Original plans for the college in Victoria Park. Picture: Sandy Fleming

New plans were revealed in 2011, which involved the demolition of derelict buildings in Elwick Road to create a town centre campus.

The Hadlow Group submitted revised plans in 2015 after taking over the college, and the existing buildings in Elwick Road were flattened.

Plans submitted by South Kent College in 2011. Picture: Sandy Fleming
Plans submitted by South Kent College in 2011. Picture: Sandy Fleming

The development of the new campus was funded from the sale of the old Ashford College site in Jemmett Road, formerly South Kent College which was also know as the K College.

In September 2017, the first students enrolled at the new college campus.

The final CGI image of Ashford College
The final CGI image of Ashford College
The campus opened in 2017
The campus opened in 2017

Elwick Place

Work on the cinema, hotel and leisure complex finished late last year, and the £75 million pound Elwick Place development threw opens its doors in December - bringing a six-screen Picturehouse cinema and Travelodge hotel to the centre of Ashford.

The initial CGIs of the development closely resembles the final product, with the most obvious difference being the site remains largely unoccupied almost a year after completion.

Artist impressions of the £75 million leisure complex
Artist impressions of the £75 million leisure complex
Ashford Elwick Place. Picture: Paul Amos
Ashford Elwick Place. Picture: Paul Amos

A first-floor balcony and seating area at the edge of the cinema building can be seen in the CGI, but never made it to the final plans.

Ashford Borough Council - who constructed the building on an area of brownfield as part of one of their 'Big 8' projects to improve the town - has since announced Macknade, AIMREC, Recursive Media, Snap Fitness and Dansaki Afro-Caribbean restaurant will be moving into the site.

The CGI of Elwick Place closely resembles the finished product
The CGI of Elwick Place closely resembles the finished product
Elwick Place opened last December. Picture: Ady Kerry
Elwick Place opened last December. Picture: Ady Kerry

Canterbury

Fenwick

At the turn of the century, one of the city's department stores underwent big changes. Ricemans - which opened in 1962 and once comprised seven floors - was knocked down and replaced with the much more modern Fenwick building.

The artist's impression of how the new store would look proved to be pretty accurate.

Artist's impression of the Fenwick store in Canterbury
Artist's impression of the Fenwick store in Canterbury
The finished Fenwick product looks pretty similar
The finished Fenwick product looks pretty similar

Managing director Hugo Fenwick folded up the Ricemans’ flag in February 2003 following its last trading day. Later that month Lord Mayor Cllr Mary Jeffries cut the ribbon to open the new store - as Ricemans was still being demolished.

Fenwick recently closed its Wincheap warehouse but, with Christmas around the corner, bosses insist its city centre store is here to stay.

Folkestone

Morrisons supermarket

Morrisons in Folkestone burnt down in November 2018, after a blaze started in a deep fat fryer in the cafe.

At its peak, 50 firefighters tackled the inferno, and luckily no one was hurt.

Artist impression of the new store in Folkestone, released in January 2018
Artist impression of the new store in Folkestone, released in January 2018

In January, bosses revealed plans to completely rebuild the store and released artist impressions of what the new look would be.

But a few months later they back tracked and said parts of the original supermarket would be incorporated into the new build.

Cost was the reason behind the U-turn.

The new Morrisons store is now open. Picture: Paul Amos
The new Morrisons store is now open. Picture: Paul Amos

The new superstore opened on Thursday, exactly a year after the first one was destroyed.

Fire crews were invited to cut the ribbon.

Maidstone

Travelodge

The Travelodge, St Peter’s Street, Maidstone. Picture: Martin Apps
The Travelodge, St Peter’s Street, Maidstone. Picture: Martin Apps

Spot the difference fans might struggle to see any variation between blueprint and building in this design.

There’s no blaming the applicants for allowing what was once dubbed Maidstone’s ugliest building.

Apart from toned-down hues, the Travelodge is a near-perfect match to the drawings submitted.

In the artist’s impression of the St Peter’s Street site, the property’s facia was multi-coloured including shades of pink, purple and orange.

Councillors deliberated on the scheme until they were happy with a palette to reflect the riverside setting.

The artists impression of the hotel at St Peter's Street, Maidstone. Copyright: Andrew Rennie, Citygrove Securities
The artists impression of the hotel at St Peter's Street, Maidstone. Copyright: Andrew Rennie, Citygrove Securities

Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) was on the committee when it was approved in 2008.

At the time he said: “Those early negotiations are really important to the finished look as it’s up to us to add the local finishing touches. It’s up to local members to make sure the designs fit well within the community.”

Medway

Chatham Waters

The £1 billion Chatham Waters project will eventually have 950 apartments and will also feature retail and hospitality space.

The development began with the construction of the Asda superstore, which opened in 2015, which was followed by the Waterfront University Technical College, and the Mast and Rigging pub.

The development will feature a water front boulevard
The development will feature a water front boulevard

Developers Peep L&P are hoping to encourage cafe culture with riverside promenades and retail space all part of the plan.

The flats will be ready to move in to by September 2020.

Eventually, the whole development will be home to about 10,000 people.

Waterfront University Technical College (UTC), Chatham Waters, Chatham
Waterfront University Technical College (UTC), Chatham Waters, Chatham

Eventually, Peel L&P wants to unlock the land at Chatham Docks, which it says the council has earmarked for mixed use as part of its Local Plan.

It is hoping to connect six miles of waterfront development with other developments at Gillingham Pier and St Mary’s Island, and the upcoming developments at Rochester Riverside, Strood Waterfront and Chatham Waterfront.

Rochester Riverside

The first phase of the Rochester Riverside development was unveiled earlier this year.

The development on what was formally a brownfield site will include 1,440 homes, a new primary school, retail space, 10 acres of green space and 2.5km of public walkway along the river.

An artists impression of what Rochester Riverside is due to look like
An artists impression of what Rochester Riverside is due to look like

An 81-bed Travelodge which backs onto Rochester Railway Station offically opened this week.

A Co-op is due to open sometime this month and the site will also eventually include a Costa.

Rochester Riverside from the Medway City Estate (20122097)
Rochester Riverside from the Medway City Estate (20122097)

The first round of residents moved in to their homes in June.

The development is expected to take a total of 12 years.

Sittingbourne

Town centre

After years of talking about it, building work on a £57 million scheme to rejuvenate Sittingbourne started in 2017.

The Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium is behind the plans, spread across the town centre, which include an eight-screen cinema, restaurants and a hotel, all on what was a car park.

Spirit of Sittingbourne CGI showing Nando's and Pizza Express restaurants in the leisure complex
Spirit of Sittingbourne CGI showing Nando's and Pizza Express restaurants in the leisure complex

First to open was Princes Street Retail Park, home to a Costa drive thru, Iceland Food Warehouse and Home Bargains.

A new multi-storey car park opened in September, five months behind schedule.

The building for what will be The Light cinema with restaurants underneath in Sittingbourne
The building for what will be The Light cinema with restaurants underneath in Sittingbourne

The hotel, a Travelodge, is due to welcome its first customers next month, while the cinema and restaurants – in a new area known as Bourne Place, right opposite the town's railway station – are likely to be complete by next year.

A 200-plus housing scheme is to follow, with apartments being built on what were council-owned car parks.

It has not all gone smoothly, with months of roadworks and delays in construction – the latest being caused by the cinema structure being in breach of its planning permission. It also has to find another restaurant chain, after Wildwood pulled out.

Nando's, Creams, Loungers and, despite its problems, Pizza Express, are all signed up.

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