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Plans for New London Film Studio Run Into Difficulties

Plans to build a major new film and TV studio complex in London to take advantage of Britain’s production boom have run into difficulties.

Be First, the local Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company spearheading the project, says that Los Angeles-based developer Pacifica Ventures will no longer be involved in the project. Pacifica was selected last year as the preferred bidder to build the studios on a 20-acre site in Dagenham, in East London. The firm has previously designed, developed and built large-scale film studios including the Albuquerque Studios in New Mexico and the Sun Center Studios outside Philadelphia.

But Pacifica Ventures will now no longer be involved, and their exclusivity period as a preferred bidder has lapsed, said Pat Hayes, Be First’s managing director.

“Pacifica told us they were finding it difficult to deliver their plans due to uncertainty over the U.K. leaving the European Union,” Hayes said. “But what is not in doubt is the viability and demand for studio space in the U.K., which remains sky high, and that is why I am convinced there will be plenty of interest from parties who want to make sure movies will be made in Dagenham.”

A Pacifica spokesman said: “Pacifica Ventures remains very much committed to the Dagenham Studios project, but unfortunately we and our investors have been forced to put the project “on hold” until the Brexit uncertainty has been resolved.

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“We understand that the Council wants to move forward more quickly and they have our blessing if a third-party should offer an alternative proposal that is acceptable to them. We hope that won’t be the case and that we’ll be able to re-start the project very soon.  We are confident that the British Film Industry will remain strong in a post-Brexit future.”

The plans for the Made in Dagenham studios called for 12 sound stages and a major events center. On Tuesday night, the Barking and Dagenham Council approved a new proposal for Be First to design and seek planning permission for a studio complex on the site.

Darren Rodwell, the leader of the council, said: “If we get planning permission to build our Made in Dagenham studios, there are some exciting options – we could build them ourselves or we can work with any of the ambitious dynamic media companies who share our vision of making movies in what will be London’s Hollywood.”

Be First will now push ahead with design work itself, continue discussions with potential operators, investors and joint ventures, and submit a planning application in the New Year.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “I’m delighted that the proposals to move forward with the designs for the Made in Dagenham studios have been agreed.

“U.K. film and high-end TV production is enjoying a sustained and exceptional boom time, contributing billions to the economy each year, and it is crucial that we capitalize on this by continuing to develop our world-class infrastructure and provide access to as much purpose-built studio space as we possibly can.”

The U.K. is struggling with a shortage of studio space amid booming levels of film and television production. Last month, Disney struck a long-term deal with historic Pinewood Studios outside London to take nearly all its stages, backlots and other production accommodation. Earlier this year, Netflix announced a similar arrangement to set up a production hub at Shepperton Studios, which is also owned by the Pinewood Group.

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