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Carl Turner scoops Ashford food hub contest

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Carl Turner Architects has won a competition to design a £650,000 food hub and business centre in Ashford, Kent

The London practice was chosen ahead of a rival bid by Fluid Design with Meanwhile Space to win the prestigious Ashford Borough Council-backed scheme.

The competition invited ‘insightful and creative architect-led teams’ to submit applications for the commission, which will transform a prominent 1,288m² plot next to Ashford International Station.

The land, known as The Island Site, currently contains a four-storey disused corn mill and a large steel portal-framed building – formerly home to the Ashford Youth Theatre.

CTA’s winning scheme – dubbed ‘The Coachworks’ – will provide a new mixed-use complex featuring a co-working area, indoor and outdoor event spaces, and retail units.

Planned to open next summer, the ‘light touch refurbishment’ will transform the former theatre into a food hub featuring a mezzanine floor.

The three-storey corn store will meanwhile be converted into a ‘business incubator’ for 200 people and the space between the two buildings will feature a loggia and open-air events space.

Stewart Smith, senior development and regeneration manager at Ashford Borough Council, 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.’

He continued: ‘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 interim project is part of Ashford’s wider Commercial Quarter regeneration zone. Ashford Borough Council increased its honorarium to £1,500 following an open letter signed by 21 architects criticising the terms of the competition.

Under the originally advertised terms, three shortlisted teams would have each received an honorarium of £1,000 to draw up concept designs following an open expressions-of-interest round.

The Commercial Quarter project aims to revitalise the area surrounding Ashford International Station and includes a new home for Ashford College by HNW Architects, an expansion of RSHP’s Ashford Designer Outlet by Chapman Taylor and a new retail hub named Elwick Place by Guy Hollaway Architects.

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