Ashford set to welcome The Coachworks

Posted on 2 July 2018

A multi-award winning architect responsible for some of the most innovative and ground-breaking projects in London has been engaged by Ashford Borough Council to help deliver an exciting urban design scheme in the heart of the town.

The council commissioned Carl Turner Architects to create a vision to breathe new life into a cluster of disused industrial buildings in Dover Place, close to the international train station. The authority purchased the site in 2014 when it acquired the nearby International House.

The result is a plan to transform the site into a mixed-use campus called The Coachworks, providing a co-working space aimed at start-up businesses, flexible indoor and outdoor event space and a food and drink destination showcasing local producers and suppliers.

The Coachworks in Ashford
The Coachworks, Ashford

By undertaking ‘light touch refurbishment’ with minimal alteration to the fabric of the buildings, the cost of delivering the project is set at £650,000 and, subject to planning approval, The Coachworks could be open as early as next summer. It will comprise three distinct spaces:

• The former Ashford Youth Theatre building – known to passers-by for its distinctive external artworks – will be transformed into a feast of food and drinks outlets, with events space added. An eye-catching mezzanine level will be created and the building will be rebranded to reflect its new use.

• The three-storey corn store will be converted into a ‘business incubator’ with start-up work spaces and shared facilities. It is big enough to host up to 200 people across the flexible space.

• Sandwiched between the two buildings is a large open air space that will be subdivided to create two zones, a loggia or covered structure providing a grand entrance to the site and acting as a series of sheltered outdoor rooms, plus an open-air space. This would be ideal for events such as theatre, cinema and live sports screenings in the summer months.

The Coachworks in Ashford

Stewart Smith, senior development and regeneration manager at Ashford Borough Council, praised the architects for delivering “a stunning response” to the brief to find an imaginative and exciting new use for industrial buildings that date back to 1846 and were originally used by a corn merchants.

He said:

“Drawing on Ashford’s rich history as a centre of trade, these proposals will provide a platform for the next generation of cultural and creative innovators. The mixed-use campus provides a variety of work, performance and leisure space for people to enjoy.

“There is nothing else like this in Ashford and across the region and I’m confident that The Coachworks is going to prove hugely popular and draw people into the Commercial Quarter from far and wide.

“There is so much to admire in the ideas presented by the architects. For example, the walls in building where the food and drink hub is located will be re-clad in a profiled polycarbonate sheeting, which transforms the building into a huge lantern at night.”

The Coachworks in Ashford

The inspiration for The Coachworks name comes from a firm of coachbuilders who were based there for 30 years from the 1960s; Crofords Carriages counted the Royal household and Harrods among its customers and the company still operates from Ashford today.

The plan for The Coachworks is termed a ‘meanwhile’ development. This is the interim use of land or buildings for which the long-term plan is yet to be decided. It’s anticipated that the Dover Place scheme will have a five year lifespan.

For more information visit

Carl Turner Architects

Carl Turner, the founder of Carl Turner Architects, says the firm is an energetic, collaborative studio of architects, urban designers, thinkers and makers that believe in creating thought-provoking and well-crafted architectural projects.

Founded in 2006 by Carl Turner, the practice has established a reputation for delivering high impact projects often producing innovative design solutions despite limited resources. It works with a diverse range of clients including local authorities, arts and cultural organisations, not for profits and commercial developers, to help each realise their plans.

“Our projects range in size from a shipping container project at Hackney City Farm to a 11,000 sq m arts academy in Peckham. Our expertise lies in the fields of housing, education, culture, workplace and urban planning and we pride ourselves on being able to engage with, and involve, a variety of communities in the process of design.”

What is a ‘meanwhile’ development?

Carl Turner Architects has developed an expertise in temporary or ‘meanwhile’ development. This is the interim use of land or buildings for which the long-term plan is yet to be decided.

They are the architects of Pop Brixton, a mixed-use creative campus with a life of approximately three and a half years. Over 250 jobs have been created on a site of approximately 1,500 sq m. The project is a joint venture with Lambeth Council, who own the land, and Pop Brixton, the organisation it established to deliver and manage the project. In the first two years of operation 1.7m visitors to the site have also had a positive impact on the local economy.

CTA are also the architects of Peckham Levels, a multi-storey car park converted into a community campus providing 80,000 sq ft of affordable space for independent businesses, workspace for local entrepreneurs and a cultural destination for the local community.

What both projects have in common is a lifespan that would normally be considered far too short for investment.