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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.89

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Full Steam Ahead For Expansion Of Industrial Park

A former Kent railway station which once echoed to the sounds of thousands of hop-pickers making their annual visit to the county is on track to provide more new business opportunities for modern-day companies.

Plans have been approved to build industrial units on Hawkhurst Station Business Park, a 14-acre site on the A229 between Hawkhurst and Cranbrook which already hosts a wide range of national and local companies.

The 12,000 sq ft and 20,000 sq ft units will be built on the site of the former Hawkhurst Railway Station, which opened in 1893 and closed in June 1961. The steam engine shed and signal box have all survived – the signal box is still in Southern Railway colours and retains its green and white sign.

Park owner Peter Dunlop has made retaining the site’s railway heritage a cornerstone of his future development plans.

“It is important to preserve the history of steam railways in Kent and I believe they are a feature of this site which sets it apart from so many other similar locations,” he added.

Mr Dunlop said that for decades prior to its closure, Hawkhurst Station would come alive every September during the hop picking season which, at its height, brought up to 26 special trains a day with each carrying around 350 people heading for the fertile hop fields across the Weald of Kent.

The scheme has obtained full planning permission and is ready to build, having been designed by award-winning Ashford-based Directline Structures, which has previously constructed buildings on the same site. The new units have been designed to be flexible to suit tenants’ needs in terms of areas and finishes, and can be sub-divided or linked.

Rod Hindley of Tunbridge Wells-based Compass Commercial is agent for Hawkhurst Station Business Park and is confident that the development will attract substantial interest in the months ahead. “The park has excellent access to the A21 and is ideally located for companies looking to expand their business in the region serving Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Maidstone and surrounding areas.

“The superior quality of the new buildings will also appeal to companies, especially those who are looking to relocate to the Weald from further afield and are looking for something extra special in terms of a new base,” he added.

Directline Structures is a family-owned design and construction company which moved from nearby Goudhurst to Ashford in 2009. In the past few months it has won awards for the quality of its sustainable design and construction at the annual Kent Environment Awards and also at the prestigious London and South East Constructing Excellence Awards.