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Pinewood unveils expansion plan

Studio will almost double in size

LONDON — Pinewood Shepperton unveiled an ambitious plan Thursday to double the size of its historic studios at a cost of up to £200 million ($400 million).

The studios will expand onto 105 acres of land next to its site in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, to create a film and TV community made up of business and residential properties.

The site will contain permanent sets replicating locations across Europe and the U.S., including an amphitheater, a castle, a Venetian canal, an Italian lakeside and street scenes from London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles.

The development will contain up to 2,250 homes. These would not be exclusively for industryites, but Pinewood brass hope easy access to the locations will attract folk from the entertainment biz.

“The principle of ‘live-work’ environments works very well,” Pinewood Shepperton CEO Ivan Dunleavy said, pointing to the success of California’s Silicon Valley and London’s financial services hub in Canary Wharf.

How to fund the ambitious project has not yet been addressed as it depends on receiving planning permits, a process that may take some time as the site is a designated “green belt,” a term denoting countryside protected from urban encroachment.

Dunleavy thinks securing the necessary permits will take 18-24 months but is hopeful they will be granted as the development addresses the housing shortage in the area and U.K. in general. No public funding is being sought for the project; the studios group has footed the bill so far. Dunleavy declined to put a figure on what the project may cost, although $400 million is widely touted in the media here.

“I think this is a tremendous project, especially for people who don’t want to spend most of their lives in Eastern Europe,” said Brit scribe-helmer Richard Curtis. “The practical benefits for film and television makers could be enormous, creating movies in one place — not several locations — and being right next to all the best film facilities.”

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