Architectural design concept – copyright Hollaway Studios
Brompton, the UK’s largest bicycle manufacturer, has taken the first step towards creating a revolutionary new factory in Ashford, Kent, by announcing its intention to submit a planning application for the development.
In order to support global demand, as cities move away from car culture to healthier walking and cycling strategies, Brompton have set their sights on a new home, situated between leading cycling cities of London and Paris.
The factory, which is being supported in principle by Ashford Borough Council, will enable Brompton’s future growth ambitions as they continue to transform the way that people move in cities around the world.
The proposals equate to a £100 million investment into the local economy, adding £270 million per annum of Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Kent economy and marks a restoration of Ashford’s cycling heritage with Brompton intending to work closely with universities and colleges in the county to develop a highly skilled workforce in Kent for generations to come.
Designed by renowned architect Guy Hollaway, the new development will be situated within a 100-acre floodplain. Ashford Borough Council plans to transform 60 acres of the site into a rewilded public nature reserve with a community cycle path and a network of trails. Challenging the traditional perception of manufacturing, sustainability will be at the heart of the facility which is designed to work in harmony with the landscape, supporting a net gain in biodiversity across the site.
As part of the vision for this unique factory that will become part of its natural surroundings, the development will have outstanding insulation, utilise natural light and air flow to minimise energy consumption, and use solar and ground source energy to contribute to its energy demands. Just like the Brompton bike, the new factory will be built to last, with construction methods optimised; embodied carbon minimised, and materials responsibly sourced to ensure the site can enable future adaptation and be resilient to the changing climate. The development will support Brompton in delivering 1.5°C aligned emission reduction targets as part of their Net Zero ambitions.
Seeking to ensure employees and visitors access the site by cycling, walking, or using public transport, the travel plan for the site aims to see no new parking spaces created. A wide cycle/pedestrian way will allow employees and visitors alike to walk and cycle straight into the facility, which will include a visitors’ centre, museum and café. The objective of Brompton’s travel plan, as with their core values, is to be a leader in sustainable transport.
Brompton will partner with Ashford Borough Council and Quinn Estates to bring the vision to life, investing in the local community through the creation of a skilled workforce, as well as using the museum and educational space on the site to facilitate outreach with local schools and universities. Brompton has had a relationship with Ashford since 2014 as one of the first Brompton Bike Hire docks was installed at Ashford International Station, which will be expanded as part of the plans.
Brompton’s current factory in Greenford, West London will continue to operate until at least 2030. The proposals for the new Ashford factory were agreed in principle by the Cabinet of Ashford Borough Council at a meeting on Thursday (24/2) with approval sought from Full Council on 3 March. If given the go-ahead they will then be subject to formal planning approval, with an application expected to be submitted towards the end of April.
Will Butler-Adams OBE, CEO at Brompton said: “As we face climate change, combined with poor mental & physical health in our cities, where most of the world population live, we need to adapt. There has been a global realisation post-pandemic that we need to change how we live in our cities, to design them around the people that live in them, not the automobile. Brompton has a large part to play in supporting that transition, but we need to have more space to innovate and create the products of the future. London was the inspiration for the Brompton and our success is in large part is due to our diverse and skilled staff who continue to nurture and develop our company.
“By choosing Ashford we can retain this strong connection to London and the UK, whilst being on the doorstep of Europe. We have a long journey ahead with the planning and development of the new site, but we’re thankful for the support of Ashford Borough Council, Hollaway Studios and Quinn Estates towards achieving our combined ambition to build this revolutionary and sustainable bicycle factory of the future.”
Cllr Gerry Clarkson – Ashford Borough Council Leader added: “This represents a once in a generation opportunity for the borough to develop a partnership with an internationally renowned cycling brand, that will bring jobs and opportunities to the town, whilst returning the town’s bicycle manufacturing heritage.
“The arrival of the new factory will enable Ashford to fulfil a long-held ambition to create a wetland park that will enhance the environment and encourage more people to explore the district in a sustainable, eco-focused manner. Ashford has set the pace in Kent for inward investment and this new factory will bring many positive benefits to the local area and will put Ashford on the map as a cycling hub.”
Guy Hollaway, Principal Partner at Hollaway Studio says of the building: “Our aim was to explore the question – what is the factory of the future? The challenge in designing for Brompton this new sustainable factory located on a 100-acre wetland site was to rethink both the concept of a factory while creating a symbiotic relationship between industry and nature. This ambitious project is truly ground-breaking in its approach and aspires to act as an exemplar to demonstrate how industry can embrace sustainable methods of transport and create an architecture that reflects the ethos of Brompton bicycles.”
Gavin Cleary, CEO at Locate in Kent said: “Brompton is a natural fit for Kent; a forward-thinking business that will not only benefit generations of local families but also shares many of the region’s values in regard to sustainable living and travel. Likewise, Kent was the most compelling location for this global company following a national search, thanks to our outstanding connectivity to London and Europe, access to a skilled workforce and the flexibility of the desired manufacturing that will regenerate the local environment in a sustainable and community-focused way.
“This is a true partnership project, as Brompton will invest in Kent’s skills offer with a commitment to working closely with local colleges and universities to provide ongoing employment opportunities for multiple generations. Brompton and Ashford have shared values on personal mobility; the borough has the most provision for cyclists anywhere in Kent, and it shares a common goal with Brompton of encouraging more people out of their cars and on their bikes every day. We are delighted to have played a role in demonstrating Kent’s exemplary business offer with positive results.”