Pinewood submits new expansion plans

Additions would double size of site

LONDON

Following its failed attempt last year, Pinewood Shepperton has submitted a new planning application to expand Pinewood Studios, which would double its capacity.

The Pinewood Studios Development Framework was unveiled Friday. It includes stages, workshops, offices and permanent streetscapes built on 25 acres of land Pinewood owns adjacent to its existing site, 20 miles west of London.

The previous plan was rejected by the local South Buckinghamshire District Council and vetoed in January 2012 by secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, primarily because it included a live-work community of 1,400 homes.

The land is designated as “green belt,” giving it protection from development to prevent urban sprawl.

Mark Hamilton, communications and public affairs manager for Pinewood Studios Group, told Variety that the new plans are very different from the previous application.

“The housing element was a sticking point,” said Hamilton. “We went back and looked at everything and talked to the heads of production of all the U.S. studios to see what was most needed.”

The studio also consulted extensively with local and national stakeholders, film producers and developers of creative content.

“The expansion at Pinewood is long overdue,” helmer Ridley Scott said in a statement. “The U.K. has to keep investing in new technology, skills and infrastructure to keep pace with international competition.”

Big productions shooting at Pinewood last year included “Skyfall,” “Maleficent,” “Jack Ryan” and “Les Miserables,” which was the first to use the new 30,000 sq. ft. Richard Attenborough Stage.

The studio has also demolished some old buildings on the current site and is creating another stage to match the Attenborough, but Hamilton said there were still capacity issues. “With the tax relief for high-end television coming in we don’t want to be turning projects away. We need to increase capacity.”

If approved by the European Commission, the tax relief will come into effect in April and offer TV productions with budgets exceeding £1 million ($1.6 million) per hour spent in the U.K. the opportunity to claim cash relief of 25%.

“The U.K. needs more first-class studio space to encourage the growth of the film and TV sector,” said Working Title’s Eric Fellner, producer of “Les Miserables.”

The new submission for the Pinewood expansion comes just one day after the British Film Institute published figures showing that inward investment for productions lensing in the U.K. had fallen 40% year-on-year to $996 million, its lowest level since 2008. This in turn saw total spending on film production in Blighty drop 29% against 2011, to $1.46 billion. Fourteen U.S. studio films shot in the U.K. in 2012, compared with 20 in 2011.

“This is a critical opportunity for the creative industries and particularly for the U.K. film industry,” said Pinewood Shepperton chief executive Ivan Dunleavy. “Global demand for filmed entertainment is increasing and the U.K. remains one of the leading destinations to produce creative content. Without infrastructure to meet the rising demand, the U.K. will inevitably turn away business.”

According to Amion Consulting, benefits of Pinewood’s expansion plans include providing $306 million of private sector infrastructure investment, supporting more than 8,100 full-time jobs and creating more than 3,000 jobs, generating an extra $58.4 million a year in U.K. exports, and providing $56.8 million to the exchequer.

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