Culture Secretary upbeat about Pinewood expansion
Surrounded by British luminaries at the British Consulate in Los Angeles, the Secretary of State
for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, told me that he hoped to reverse last months government decision to reject Pinewood studio planning permission to build replicas of city centres, including Paris, Venice, New York, Prague and New Orleans, where people could live when they were not used for filming.
The studio said the development would have created hundreds of jobs, brought millions of pounds into the British economy and boosted Pinewoods status as a studio on the global stage. The rejection of the planning application was particularly controversial, at a time when the governments planning policy promotes a presumption towards sustainable development and its economic policy is aimed at encouraging the creation of private sector jobs.
Distancing himself from the governments decision, the Secretary of State protested, It was not my department that rejected the planning permission.
Indeed, it was the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who made the decision, following a protest from neighbours and local villages, fearful of increased traffic and possible damage to the green belt.
The decision surprised and dismayed many in the film industry, particularly because it came on the heels of the Prime Minster David Camerons visit to Pinewood studios last month, where he called for the Hollywoodisation of the UK film industry.
Eager to present his government as a passionate supporter of the British film industry, Jeremy Hunt offered encouraging words. Ive called Pinewood studios, and we are working together to find a solution, and hopefully get the planning approved, he enthused.
Earlier, standing next to the British Consul General Dame Barbara Hay, he welcomed British artists and VIPs, including Oscar nominees Kenneth Branagh and Gary Oldman, to the reception honouring those up for this weekends Academy Awards.
The UK has a truly world-class film industry, with amazing people both in front of and behind the camera. This not only contributes to the enormous success of Hollywood film studios but has a hugely positive impact on the British economy. As the UK gears up for the Queens Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, theres no better time to celebrate the best Britain has to offer in film and creativity, Mr Hunt said in his speech.
Other guests at the Consulate included the singer and fashion designer Victoria Beckham and the actress Sophie Winkleman, accompanied by her husband, Lord Frederick Windsor, Prince Williams cousin.