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New open-air theatre planned for Ashford in Kent

Artist's impression of Ashford's new Coachworks space, which will include an open-air performance space

Plans have been announced for a new open-air performance space in the town of Ashford in Kent.

Ashford Borough Council aims to transform disused industrial buildings into a leisure and start-up business hub.

As part of the £650,000 project, called the Coachworks, the former Ashford Youth Theatre building will be developed into a series of food and drink outlets, with event space added.

A neighbouring three-storey former corn store will be converted into work spaces. A large open-air space between the two buildings will be split into two, with one part used as an entrance to the complex and the other to be used as a event space for theatre performances, cinema and live sports screenings.

Further details on the performance space are to be announced.

Members of the public are able to consult on the scheme, which has been designed by Carl Turner Architects, for the next month, after which the council will seek planning permission.

If permission is granted, it aims for the hub to be opened in time for summer 2019.

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.”

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