Pinewood gets expansion go-ahead

Congleton Guardian: James Bond films, recently starring Daniel Craig, are shot in Pinewood James Bond films, recently starring Daniel Craig, are shot in Pinewood

Pinewood Studios, home to the Harry Potter and James Bond films as well as the new Star Wars, has been given the go-ahead to forge ahead with multimillion-pound expansion plans which would see it rival Hollywood sets.

The Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed that ministers had approved plans for the studio expansion.

Pinewood has housed more than 1,500 movies, including the recent James Bond films starring Daniel Craig, and is where the next instalment of the Star Wars franchise, Episode VII, is being filmed.

Its television studios have shot Dancing On Ice, Dragons' Den, BBC sitcom My Family, Piers Morgan's Life Stories and entertainment show Ant & Dec's Push The Button.

A host of film companies, including Universal, Disney and LucasFilms, all backed the £20 million Project Pinewood, while the likes of London Mayor Boris Johnson and the British Film Institute have also come out in favour.

The project is considered critical to the future of the screen-based industries in the UK, having played temporary home to an esteemed back-catalogue of blockbuster titles including James Bond titles Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall, as well as instalments of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows series and Abba musical adaptation Mamma Mia!

But the plans for the site, in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside in Iver Heath, near Windsor, were rejected by the local authority after a flurry of complaints that the development would wreck green belt land and put severe strain on transport networks in the commuter belt.

Campaign group Stop Project Pinewood said "t he damage that the proposal would cause to the green belt, and therefore to the national and public interest, as well as damage to the quality of peoples' lives and their environment and the interests of future generations, significantly outweighs any limited and speculative benefits contended" by the applicant.

The proposal involves the demolition of some buildings on the site and the erection of new buildings and facilities across the premises, including a multi-storey car park.

Pinewood is the only production complex of its size, scale and international profile in the UK, and its expansion has been deemed pivotal in encouraging growth in the industry.

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently described Pinewood's contribution as "enormous", and recognised how knocking back the plans might put scupper future investment.

They said: "A lack of studio space is already resulting in the loss of international inward investment.

"Like other studios they need to build capacity if they are to respond to growing demand. We expect demand for studio space to grow significantly with the introduction of tax credits for high-end television.

"While allowing for local concerns, the planning system should adequately recognise the significance of creative industry infrastructure."

According to a Government report, the project would secure private sector investment of nearly £200 million, and the creation of 99,000sqm of new sound stages, workshops, production suites and associated production tenant office accommodation.

It would also create around 3,100 additional jobs, and described the case for expansion as "compelling and robust".

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