STEAM RAILWAY HERITAGE PRESERVED AS BUSINESS PARK EXPANDS
The latest phase of development at a thriving Kent business park is also ensuring that an important part of the county’s steam railway heritage is being protected.
Earlier this year plans were approved to build 12,000 sq ft and 20,000 sq ft units on the Hawkhurst Station Business Park, a 14-acre site on the A229 between Hawkhurst and Cranbrook, which is home to a range of successful companies.
The park is on a former railway station site, which closed in 1961, and the old 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 is keen to protect this railway heritage and commissioned design and construction company Directline Structures to develop the environmentally-sensitive site by adding new steel-framed industrial units.
“We have worked closely with the planning authorities to agree a way of enhancing facilities here while preserving the history of steam railways in Kent. One option we are considering is to relocate the signal box to the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Tenterden and we are looking into this with planners,” he added.
The development has been designed by Ashford-based Directline Structures, which has previously constructed buildings on the park. “I have been delighted with the quality of their work,” said Peter. “They have kept to schedule and to budget and they deal with all the planning and technical issues, leaving me free to get on with running my business. It is reassuring to know they are on the case.”
Duncan Murray, managing director of Directline Structures, said: “The flexible design of the units suit tenants’ needs in terms of areas and finishes, while our sustainable approach to design and build ensures they are as environmentally-friendly as possible.”
While the availability of the new units has attracted interest further afield, they have been snapped up by two companies already operating from the site.
Family-owned importer and distributor Maws Fine Foods and premium desserts manufacturer Rhokett, both successful and well-established names in the UK catering industry, needed larger premises to expand their businesses.
Duncan Murray said: “Maws will move into the new unit from the engine shed on the site, while Rhokett is expanding from another unit we built five years ago. When Maws vacates the engine shed we will extend the building before another existing business on the park moves in there. It’s very encouraging to see existing tenants committing their futures to this part of Kent.”
The units should be completed by February but this investment in improving facilities at Hawkhurst Station Business Park is not the only cause for celebration for owner Peter Dunlop. His business Kent Woodware marks its 100th anniversary on 13 December.
He said: “I’m the third generation to run the business and it has changed out of all recognition over the years. My grandfather started the company in 1911 when he rented land on the old railway station site. We used to manufacture wooden components for the bedding, brush and tool handle trades.
“My father bought the site when the station closed in 1961 and when I joined in 1966 trade was booming, while the business park was also attracting other traders. By the 1990s it was no longer economical for us to continue and we ceased manufacturing but in 2001 I restarted the business and we now have manufacturing operations in Lithuania and Romania. Kent Woodware imports these products and supplies to customers across the UK.”
Directline Structures is a family-owned design and construction company and in the last year 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.
For more information about Hawkhurst Station Business Park or Kent Woodware call Peter Dunlop on 01580 752163. For information about Directline Structures, call 01233 504770 or visit www.directlinestructures.co.uk.