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Future Cities Forum Winter Awards shortlist in our film studios category

Above: Marlow film studio hub (Courtesy Wilkinson Eyre)

Future Cities Forum is releasing its short-list of projects in the film studios category. Film studio development has been at the heart of the creative industries innovation programme that the UK government has been driving. Can the UK sustain film studio building and continue to attract film makers to the sites? Are they flexible in build and do they have the facilities expected by film crews for production. Is there provision for skills training?

Marlow Film Studios (Wilkinson Eyre)

The planning decision for a new UK centre for high-end film and TV production, submitted by a group of local entrepreneurs and arts industry professionals in Buckinghamshire at the former gravel pits near the town of Marlow, has been postponed until next year. The team behind the property company has delivered between them projects such as the London Olympics, King's Cross and CB1 Cambridge.

Buckinghamshire has a long association with Oscar winning films and creative industries and is home to Pinewood Studios and the National Film and Television School. Robert Laycock, Co-founder of Dido Property Ltd and his team want to leverage the future studios' place in this local cluster, providing new jobs, skills, education, training and apprenticeships in a growth industry, which they say has the potential to provide wealth and prosperity for future generations. They add that the aim of the project is to enhance the ecological and transport infrastructure of the area, while bringing cultural and recreational benefits to the community. Engagement has been designed around an exhibition, feedback forms, online community meetings and newsletters.

The master plan is intended to provide versatile production facilities flexible to the diverse needs of the TV and film industry. There will be four independent clusters of studios and offices with sufficient capacity to cater for multiple concurrent productions, integrated into the existing landscape through a connected green network that brings additional nature to the site.

The team says there will also be a recreational outdoor space of high ecological value together with a Culture and Skills Academy space and a main square with amenities, such as a cafe, for occupiers. The Studio Hub will be a primary point of focus for the site with screening rooms, exhibition space, cafes, restaurants with a Public Right of Way next to it and through the development.

Above: CGI of NTW Ashford (Quinn Estates)

Ashford International Studios (Developer, Quinn Estates)

Ashford Borough Council's Head of Economic Growth, Andrew Osborne, spoke at Future Cities Forum at the BFI in March about plans to deliver the new film studios for Kent - NTW ('New Town Works') on a brownfield site next to historic railway works, which have been approved.

'We are creating the new studios at the Victorian railway works site in Ashford which were in operation since 1847 and have been producing locomotives over the years. The site has been derelict for 35 years but there is significant heritage. We are not putting studios in those buildings but creating a mixed-use development with commercial space, and then studios in separate buildings. We have planning permission for all of it and the site is some 80,000 square feet.'

Andrew was asked how the site would be branded to attract business in competition with other studios in the UK?

'The concentration of film studios in west London is the driver for UK PLC and the UK does need a range of spaces to support talent. We are bringing talent through in smaller spaces in Kent. Our location is excellent and we could have people commuting to use the studios from Calais in France as they can easily travel through the Channel tunnel, but we are also close to London and Paris via the fast train links. We are five minutes walk from the train station at Ashford and we working on the place-making of the site, celebrating the heritage of the town and bringing these new industries. We want to bring in skills and training and want to link with the University of Canterbury. We are working with the Kent Film Office and the recent Sam Mendes film 'Empire of Light' filmed in Margate, creates tourism and attention for us too. We have our levelling up funding and working with studio operators. It is hugely challenging because of the brownfield site that we are on but we are making space where talent wants to be.'

Above: the HOP studio project in Bedfordshire (Scott Brownrigg)

Home of Production, Bedfordshire (Scott Brownrigg for Verb)

Following extensive public consultation, Scott Brownrigg's masterplan for a new film and television studio campus in central Bedfordshire has been approved for planning by Central Bedfordshire Council.

Building on the UK’s reputation as a destination for world–class filmmaking, Home of Production (HOP) will be the first facility designed by producers, for producers – incorporating state-of-the-art facilities that address the needs of producers and their teams. Revolutionising the experience for crew, attracting a new generation of producers, and enhancing the environment and local economy alike.

A rare opportunity to create the ‘ideal’ film campus from scratch, the new-build scheme redevelops a 143-acre brownfield site to discreetly provide over 1.75m sq ft flexible indoor and outdoor studio space and associated facilities, set within a tranquil waterside environment that crews can call home.

While staying onsite in self-contained suites, crews can enjoy a drink or bite to eat at one of the permanent bars, restaurants or cafes that line the central piazza, exercise in the gym, or watch a film premier at the waterside hospitality suite. A medical centre, childcare facilities and faith rooms are provided to support wellbeing, and disabled access is weaved throughout the masterplan to encourage equality of opportunity.


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