It’s taken a fair few years, but Pinewood Studios now finally has the greenlight to grow. That’s welcome news at a time when the UK is bursting with film and TV series jockeying for stage space and tax breaks. The UK’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government today offered his positive decision on the Pinewood Studios Development Framework which will double the existing facility in South Buckinghamshire. The studio is currently host to Star Wars: Episode VII and is awaiting the next James Bond movie. In total, 100,000 square meters of new studios, stages, workshops and production offices will be added. CEO Ivan Dunleavy recently told me that if the expansion permission was granted, Pinewood would “hope to have the first phase under construction in the first year.” Today he said, “We want to begin construction as soon as possible.”
Pinewood has been ready for this expansion for some time, but it’s been a tough road getting here. The studio originally applied for permission to grow back in 2011 and was rejected in early 2012. The local council took issue with part of the original plan that included building residences on adjacent greenbelt land. The residential aspect was removed from the proposal and Pinewood resubmitted the plans. But they were again rejected in May 2013. A public inquiry began last November into the project and a decision had been expected by July 14. Pinewood has had strong support from the U.S. studios in its bid to build — Disney, Fox and Universal were among those who wrote to decision-makers last year.
The lucrative TV and film tax credits have brought the majors to the UK in force. Disney shoots almost all of its movies at Pinewood and Marvel is a fixture at Shepperton. Other studios like Warner Bros’ Leavesden are busy, and rising players like Bottle Yard, which is hosting ABC’s Galavant, are also heavily booked meaning repurposed warehouses are becoming de rigueur even for British productions. In 2013, the inward spend on just film productions was $1.43B which came from 37 international (mostly Hollywood) movies that made the UK their base. Those are numbers the UK government likes and this expansion should help keep the figures rising.