Ashford International Studios at Newtown Works CGI Image Credit – Quinn Estates –

Plans are gathering pace to deliver an exciting film studios-led £250m investment and regeneration project, Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet heard on Thursday (30 March).

The TV and film studios on the site of the derelict Newtown Works railway site will bring significant benefits to Ashford in terms of investment and job creation, and promises to be one of the most important economic drivers for the borough.

The report to the Ashford Cabinet said that the UK film and TV sector is thriving, contributing £14.9bn of output in 2019, an increase of 89% over the space of five years. The British Film Institute forecasts the requirement for 10,000 new employees in this sector over the next five years, and Lambert Smith Hampton have forecast the need for 2.3m sq ft of new studio space over the next 15 years.

The report stated: “It is pleasing to report the Ashford International Development Company (AIDC) has received a significant offer for 202 of the 302 residential units and is working through the final stages of its due diligence to formalise the transaction,” before adding that such a deal would “significantly de-risk” the project from the Council’s perspective.

In further positive news, the report adds: “AIDC has been working to secure interest from the film and TV industry for a studio operator, and we are pleased to report they have engaged with a leading global studio operator.

“They would work alongside the East Kent College Group facility to develop a curriculum and training programmes to support the development of the local workforce, providing the talent required by the studio operator and the production companies renting the studio space.”

Cabinet agreed that a loan facility of £50m be made available to the AIDC for the construction of the studios and workshop space, subject to the completion of the due diligence process and to the granting of planning permission satisfactory to the film studio operator. It was agreed that this loan facility will either be repaid on completion of the works from the sale proceeds or through a lease to an operator on a long-term basis.

Cabinet also agreed to financially support the AIDC to proceed with the redesign of the studio facility up to the value of £30,000 in order to submit a revised planning application. Plus it agreed to allocate up to £100,000 to carry out the due diligence required to finalise the transaction.

Councillors heard that the reason some of the design details have changed since the initial planning approval was given in 2020, is that this is to meet the specific specifications of the future operators’ needs. Previously this was based on general film studio design requirements, now one is on board, the designs will reflect their specific needs.

The report to Cabinet underlined that significant enabling work has been achieved on site over the past year since the successful bid by Ashford Borough Council for £14.7 million in Levelling Up Funding from Government.

Speaking after the meeting, Council Deputy Chief Executive Ben Lockwood said: “The report reflects the fact that the regeneration scheme at Newtown Works has the potential to deliver on the ambitions for recovery at a local, regional and national level. Our project has the added benefit of regenerating a brownfield site that has lain dormant for 30 years, as well as preserving buildings that contribute to the historic fabric of Ashford for generations to come.

“This scheme, subject to an amended planning consent, for the studio and workshop space, with a reputable studio operator secured and with the council’s support together with the successful Levelling Up funding bid, provides a once in a generation opportunity to redevelop this nationally significant railway heritage site into a thriving economic driver for the area.”

To find out more about the proposals visit:

By Ed

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