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Pinewood expansion hopes dashed again

The Bond stage at Pinewood – photo courtesy Pinewood-Shepperton plc

Local councillors in South Buckinghamshire have dealt a second major blow to Pinewood Shepperton’s £200m expansion plans.

The studios had hoped to create about 3000 jobs as part of a fifteen year project to build new sound-stages and streetscapes at the site at Iver Heath.

A more ambitious proposal was rejected by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles last year, just weeks after David Cameron visited Pinewood to express his support for the UK film industry, prompting the then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to tell UK Screen that he planned to challenge his own government’s decision, which appeared to go against the government’s own support for planning that promotes sustainable development.

Studio bosses pared back the original proposal, removing an element to build a thousand homes, to try to appease local residents who objected to the building on green-belt land, but local councillors have rejected the latest planning application.

The Chief Executive of Pinewood Shepperton, Ivan Dunleavy said, “This is a disappointing decision by the local planning authority. It is hard to believe, given the country’s economic difficulties that SBDC would turn down a £200m project creating 3,100 jobs in the vibrant and growing film and television sectors.” He said the company remained committed to the development plan and after studying the decision, he expected to be appeal to the Secretary of State. This would mean that Mr Pickles would again have to decide whether Britain’s largest film production facility can expand.

Pinewood has said it needs to be able to go ahead with its plans if Britain is to compete with Hollywood on the global production stage; the business currently brings more than £1bn a year into the UK.

Scare stories have been floated that losing this planning decision could result in the Bond franchise having to move out of the studios where all but one of the films have been made.

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