Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee have granted planning approval for Newtown Works, an ambitious £250m film studio-led regeneration of a derelict railway works in Ashford.
The project, led by master developer Quinn Estates, alongside funding partner U+I, operator The Creative District Improvement Company and award-winning architects Hollaway, will create a hub for the creative industries and support the creation of 2,000 jobs only 20 minutes by train from Rye.
Newtown Works will include:
- 240,000sqft of dedicated production space across four new build film studios equipped with the highest acoustic and lighting specifications;
- A 120-bed hotel;
- Workshops and 300 apartments in the Grade II listed locomotive sheds;
- Space for a new Kent Film School, in partnership with local universities and colleges;
- 383-space multi-storey car park;
- A roof-top restaurant.
Work will begin immediately with a target date of 2022 set for the launch of Ashford International Studios. A number of leading production companies have shown interest and are expected to be bidding for space.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “This development will be one of the most important economic drivers for the borough in the next few years and demonstrates the confidence that investors continue to have in Ashford.
“These exciting proposals involve finding a new use for one of the longest listed buildings in the country, which is of significant historical value but have been left to decay. This development will sensitively ensure our proud railway heritage is recognised, while transforming a brownfield site which has laid dormant for many years into a film and TV studio hub together with a hotel, serviced apartments, conferencing facility and a health club
“Not only will this development put Ashford on the map nationally and internationally, it will also create sought after film studio space, provide thousands of jobs and make the town a hub for the creative arts industry, which is set to grow significantly in the future.”
Mark Quinn, CEO, Quinn Estates, said: “The decision by Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee to approve Newtown Works is fantastic news, both for the town of Ashford and the broader South-East region.
“Their backing means we can collectively start to rebuild the industry, jobs and momentum temporarily lost as a result of what has been happening globally, building on the investment in the town that has already been made to deliver an exciting new era for Ashford.
“The demand for studio space has never been higher, and the coronavirus pandemic has not changed that. We are also at an exciting stage in the process of attracting a number of private equity and institution backed funds to invest in the site.
“This decision will mean we will be able to confirm with leading production companies that the studios will be open for business in 2022. This will allow them to, at last, start the formal process of bidding to occupy our space at Ashford International Studios.
“Both companies are scheduling production up to three years ahead, and will therefore be able to commit, before we are even in the ground. Quinn Estates would like to acknowledge the council for recognising the value that Newtown Works will bring to the district and its residents.”
This is welcome news for the local economy and employment prospects for people living in and around Rye. As previously covered in Rye News, the town’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism and hospitality which has been particularly hard hit but the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent lockdown and travel restrictions.
Image Credits: Newtown Works .