On 23 April, at its first fully virtual planning meeting, Ashford Borough Council granted planning permission for Newtown Works, a mixed-use development centred around a major new TV and film studio. The decision is the culminations of three years of work by lead developer, Quinn Estates, award-winning architect studio Hollaway, funding partner U+I and operator, The Creative District Improvement Co. The studios are expected to open in 2022.
In this blog post, we explore the opportunity this development represents for the local area and why investors should now be considering this well connected and ambitious town.
What is Newtown Works?
The site, a former railway works in Ashford, has sat derelict since the 1980s. This project promises to give new purpose and create exciting opportunities for the borough. Newtown Works will include 240,000 sq. ft of dedicated production space with four studios equipped to the highest specification. The wider project will also deliver a 120-bed hotel, a restaurant, multi-storey car park and repurpose Grade II listed locomotive sheds into workshops and apartments.
The granting of planning approval is not only exciting for local residents and businesses, but it’s also good news for those investing in property in Ashford, Kent’s international town, within 37 minutes of London St Pancras and two hours from Paris by Eurostar.
What opportunities does the project present?
According to inward investment agency, Locate in Kent, Kent has attracted over 1,560 new creative businesses in the last five years . This will only be accelerated by Newtown Works. Representing a major boost for the sector through the creation of 2,000 jobs, it promises to put Ashford on the map as a key creative hub for the UK.
This also presents a real opportunity for young professionals looking for jobs in this sector and a vibrant place to live. In turn, there will be an increased demand for homes offering high quality, affordable living.
Our Managing Director, Michael El-Kassir, outlines why he thinks this is such an exciting opportunity: “We were drawn to Ashford as we could recognise what a unique offering it had and the direction it was going, so in 2017 we started work on our Riverside Park development. High speed train links to London, an active local authority and exciting regeneration plans were among the things that caused us to invest in the town.
“Three years on, we have seen some exciting change happening in the town, including the launch of the new Commercial Quarter, designer outlet expansion and launch of a retail and leisure hub at Elwick Place. The announcement that Newtown Works has been given the greenlight is excellent news for the town and will help continue the rapid growth of the area.
“We have already secured solid returns for our investors in Ashford – a 21% capital growth between Q1 2017 and Q2 2019. The opportunities Newtown Works presents will only drive house prices up further, so there is no better time to invest in Ashford.”
What are the next steps?
Now that Newtown Works has been granted planning permission, the developers can take the next steps in progressing the project. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, it also represents a positive future for the Ashford economy.
CEO and Chairman of Quinn Estates, Mark Quinn, explains what Newtown Works being approved means: “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.
GRE Assets collaborated with Quinn Estates, lead developer of Newtown Works, on the Riverside Park project.