Elwick Place works formally begins

Construction work on Elwick Place, the two-hectare development zone in the heart of Ashford town centre officially commenced on Friday 16 June with a ‘start on site’ ceremony attended by Ashford Borough Council, their development partners Stanhope and the main contractors, Lendlease, on site.

The work has been able to begin in earnest following the formal completion of an unconditional agreement between Ashford Borough Council and Stanhope PLC that will see the local authority fund the construction of Elwick Place on land it owns. Stanhope PLC will deliver the scheme for the Council, drawing on their extensive experience in providing new places for communities, following successes such as Hereford city centre and as the developer currently regenerating Television Centre in West London following its sale by the BBC in 2012.

The works here in Ashford will see them transform derelict land into a vibrant new leisure quarter for the town with a 6-screen Picturehouse cinema, hotel and series of restaurants and cafes, complete with a new 282-space car park.

In further exciting news this week, Travelodge has been confirmed as the brand that will run the new hotel being built, where they will provide 58 bright bedrooms and run their own cafe and bar area. They have signed a deal with Stanhope that commits them to the new hotel on a long-term 25-year lease.

Enabling works had already begun at the site in recent weeks but today’s announcement and ceremony formalised the start of the full programme of works to deliver this new area for Ashford within around 18 months.

The Elwick Place scheme is one element of a wider £519 million of investment in developments in Ashford town centre currently under construction or with construction expected to start within the next five years, building on the town’s unique position with its high-speed rail route to Central London and Europe. With the borough’s resident population expected to rise to about 303,000 by 2025, it is hoped that this new development will provide approximately 250 jobs for the community and offer an exciting new all day and evening destination for people to spend their leisure time.

Ashford Borough Council Leader, Cllr Gerry Clarkson, said:

“A reinvigorated Elwick Place, built on a brownfield site, will spring back to life over the coming months and residents will very soon see visible results as the building becomes a focal point on the Ashford skyline. We are funding the construction of the development, which is on our land. When the work is completed, we will own the leisure facility and we will secure a source of income in the long-term that will enable us to deliver our services to the whole of the borough.

“This project may well be looked upon in the future as the turning point where this local authority actually became a serious business enterprise in which all members of our population reap the financial benefit from our ambitious economic activities. The business case is robust and the benefits for Ashford are substantial.”

Gary Bourne, Development Director at Stanhope, added:

“Elwick Place will be a real asset to Ashford, which will significantly enrich the offer of the town centre, particularly in the evening. Picturehouse and the newly announced Travelodge will also attract many new visitors and enhance Ashford’s tourist appeal.

“We are very excited to have reached this landmark moment today and are now ‘all systems go’ to provide a wonderful new leisure quarter for the town centre that we hope will be enjoyed by local people and visitors for decades to come.”

Elwick Place will create a new landmark in the town centre, designed by RIBA award-winning London and Kent architects Guy Hollaway Architects, with a striking curved structure clad in a gold coloured, aluminium mesh.

The new Picturehouse, Cineworld’s neighbourhood cinema brand, will provide a complementary offer to the IMAX proposed by Cineworld for the nearby Eureka Leisure Park.

Kevin Frost, Director at Cineworld, said:

“We are pleased to be able to deliver both an out-of-town multiplex experience at Eureka Park, which will include the new IMAX and 4DX screens, and a neighbourhood cinema offer in town, complemented by an outstanding food and beverage service. We are investing in Ashford at an exciting time for both Cineworld and the town, and look forward to bringing this greatly improved cinema choice to the local community.”

The new family hotel will also play an important role within the redeveloped site, helping meet the increased demands from tourism, consistent with the Ashford Town Centre Area Action Plan. Sitting above ground floor restaurants, it will be finished in an aluminium clad composite material to complement the cinema opposite.

John Hardy, Development Manager at Travelodge, added:

“Our existing hotel at Eureka Leisure Park has performed strongly since it opened 17 years ago, so we are delighted to now be part of the fantastic new leisure scheme in Ashford town centre. “The new Travelodge will be located very close to the Ashford International railway station and, with the all of the great restaurants, shops and leisure facilities in the immediate area, this will be a superb location for both leisure and business customers. “Travelodge is delighted to be one of the anchors for the Elwick Place development and extend our investment in Ashford.”