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Stephen George + Partners wins planning for naturally graceful retail scheme in Ashford

Stephen George + Partners LLP (SGP) is celebrating planning success for its new build 91,000 sqft retail park in Ashford, Kent. The impressive development consists of two retail terraces split into six units and connected by an outdoor garden centre, additionally there are a 2,000 sq.ft. standalone retail unit and a 2,200 sq.ft. café unit.

Says Stuart Hancox, Director of SGP: "Our client Castle City Estates and Ashford Borough Council wanted a quality development that met their high design standards. Having undertaken previous schemes in the Ashford area, SGP was chosen to bring a new approach to the park; still functional and honest but without the normal metal clad box like forms opting instead for a softer more natural feel."

SGP's design reflects the surrounding woodlands and natural landscape, using a modern minimal aesthetic and clever detailing in a more natural form for the prominent front aspect. A wavelike timber façade with integrated timber screen brise soleil, undulates across the elevation, echoing the surrounding tree line. A solid base of local field stone filled gabions provides an aesthetic durability with a grounded feel. Adopting a more elemental approach, the architects have used local natural materials in their ‘raw' state - bare wood, local field stone, and galvanised metal finishes - to be sympathetic to their context and blend with the natural backdrop.

Landscaping and environmental concerns were another key element of the overall design. The site wide SUDS strategy incorporates water attenuation ponds and swales, along with new trees and shrub planting that will create a transition from the site to the surrounding natural woodlands, boosting biodiversity.

Concludes Stuart: "It was a pleasure to design such a good-looking retail park. Having a client and local authority actively pushing up the quality bar was stimulating and ultimately created a retail park that was able to deliver commercial requirements with a high end sensitive design."

The buildings have good environmental credentials and aim to achieve BREEAM ‘very good'. Work is planned to start in February 2019.