Opera House in­spired award-win­ner

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Multimillion-pound Revamp - By Vicky Cas­tle

Builders first started work on con­struct­ing the Ash­ford De­signer Out­let in 1996, with the cen­tre open­ing for busi­ness in March 2000.

It was de­signed by the Lord Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Har­bour and Part­ners, who also de­signed the Lloyd’s build­ing and Mil­len­nium Dome in Lon­don.

The engi­neer­ing firm be­hind the project was Buro Hap­pold, which spe­cialises in ten­sile struc­tures and was also re­spon­si­ble for the Syd­ney Opera House – thought to be the in­spi­ra­tion for the de­sign.

Since it was named Re­tail Des­ti­na­tion of the Year 2001 by readers of Re­tail Week mag­a­zine, the Ash­ford De­signer Out­let has gone on to win nu­mer­ous de­sign awards.

The high­est point of the struc­ture is 324m (1,063ft) and the en­tire cen­tre cost £21 mil­lion to build.

It has been at­tract­ing more than 2.8 mil­lion vis­i­tors each year since 2009.

Cllr Gerry Clark­son, Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil leader, first hinted at plans to ex­pand the shop­ping cen­tre in Au­gust 2013.

He re­vealed the am­bi­tious plans to dou­ble the size of the out­let, adding around 100,000 sq ft, to the cur­rent 185,000 sq ft of re­tail space.

A full plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for the ex­ten­sion was given the green light by coun­cil­lors in Septem­ber 2015, when mem­bers voted over­whelm­ingly in sup­port of the pro­pos­als.

It will be the first ex­ten­sion to the cen­tre and the mul­ti­mil­lion­pound devel­op­ment will add a fur­ther 38 shops to the 80 cu there.

The cen­tre cur­rently em­ploys more than 1,000 peo­ple and the ex­pan­sion is set to create a fur­ther 500 jobs, plus 170 con­struc­tion staff who will work on the build.

It is hoped the ex­ten­sion will be com­plete in 2018.

Pic­ture: Dean Morse

Ash­ford Out­let was de­signed by Lord Richard Rogers, right, de­signer of the Mil­le­nium Dome; engi­neer­ing firm Buro Hap­pold were also re­spon­si­ble for the Syd­ney Opera House – thought to be the in­spi­ra­tion for the shop­ping cen­tre’s look

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