Clacton Garden Centre

Smith Farms Clacton Ltd approached Inkpen Downie with an idea to construct a new family-run café / restaurant building, with associated car parking to serve the general public and visitors to the existing Clacton Garden Centre.


The proposed business venture, ‘Bluehouse Cafe’ - (images here) , is intended to enhance the existing garden centre business, whilst at the same time being a stand alone business. The client is looking for opportunities to diversify in order to continue farming a viable and productive business whilst supporting the rural community. It will bring new job opportunities for the local economy and is intended to establish strong links with the rural community to boost and promote local produce by using and selling it within the café and restaurant. The project qualified for Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) grant funding due to it’s concept of benefiting the rural economy.


It is proposed to accommodate an approximate 88-seat sit down restaurant together with a ‘walk-in’ takeaway coffee shop facility served by a fully operational commercial kitchen. The objective of the works is to create a viable business that will also support the existing garden centre to help transform it into a destination in its own right in order to make people want to spend longer at the site and become frequent returning customers. It will provide a pleasant eating environment that remains loyal to its rural heritage and provide an outside patio area / sun terrace with additional seating towards the south of the site.


With its proximity to the main road the vision is to create a striking architecturally designed building that has a prominent kerbside appeal to draw visitors in whilst reflecting the site’s farming / rural heritage. Large areas of glazing are provided towards the east and south elevations with a large feature curtain wall gable end with integrated bi-folding doors that take advantage of the south facing views and natural daylight. This then leads out on to the sun terrace that wraps around the building to the south and east end of the building. The west-facing wall of the sun terrace will be solid to create an acoustic buffer between it and the site boundary to be respectful of its residential neighbours.


The materials proposed for the new building take their lead from the existing buildings on the site together with its rural heritage. It therefore incorporates a palette of materials similarly used on rural farm buildings i.e. timber and metal. However the current design puts a modern twist on the timber barn by its choice of vertically boarded timber, zinc and glass sat within dark grey aluminium frames. The external cladding also plays with different levels of solid vs. transparency by taking some of the timber slats over areas of glazing to provide different degrees of open and closed spaces.


Since the site contains a garden nursery, providing an attractive, pleasant environment is considered important. The landscaping surrounding the building itself will therefore be used to illustrate and inspire the visitors as to what is possible with a mixture of annual and perennial plants.


Tendring District Council Planning department were supportive of the scheme and planning permission was granted in July 2018. Construction started on site in March 2019.



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