The proposed $640 million expansion of Britain’s iconic Shepperton Studios has taken another step forward. The proposal received local planning approval Tuesday from the Spelthorne Borough Council, despite some objections from area residents.
The Pinewood Group’s £500 million (about $640 million) application to increase Shepperton’s capacity for film and high-end television production now goes to the British government for review. “We are encouraged by this outcome and believe it marks an important step forward in the strength of Shepperton Studios” Paul Golding, chairman of Pinewood Group, said.
Pinewood began a consultation with the local community about the proposed expansion last June before submitting its planning application to the local council in August. The company says that redeveloping Shepperton, which sits on the outskirts of southwest London, would result in an annual £300 million ($387 million) boost to the economy, and create 1,500 jobs during construction and a further 3,000 jobs upon completion.
The council said environmental concerns raised about the expansion were “clearly outweighed by the national economic argument and the support for government policy aims.”
“The U.K. screen industries make a hugely significant contribution to our economy and are an invaluable part of our creative and cultural global leadership,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission. “The decision to support the studios’ expansion provides the opportunity to enhance the U.K.’s offer, attracting even more producers and directors from around the world, whilst maintaining Shepperton’s position at the forefront of the global production facilities market.”
Latest figures published by the British Film Institute showed production spend in the U.K. in 2018 hit £1.924 billion ($2.5 billion) from film, high-end TV and animation. Inward investment from 51 films shooting in the U.K. in 2018 accounted for more than £1.6 billion (83%) of that figure, despite decreasing 14% year-on-year.
Pinewood’s plan for Shepperton seeks to increase the studio’s stage space by around 465,000 square feet and add additional support facilities, bringing it in line with the scale and standard of sister facility Pinewood Studios. When the planning application was submitted last August, Andrew M. Smith, director of Shepperton Studios, said the U.K. was “currently missing out on a significant number of international films because of a shortage of sound stages.”
Universal’s “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” and Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” are two of the most recent releases to have shot at Shepperton. Shepperton has a long history dating back to 1931 and has housed such classic films as Carol Reed’s “The Third Man,” Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and Ridley Scott’s “Alien.”