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The proposals
Why do we need a Film Studio in Holyport/RBWM?

There is overwhelming demand for new and more high-end original Film & TV content in the UK. This has meant that all available studio space has been taken up and unavailable for decades as production companies sign long-leases. Consequently, the UK, and south east specifically faces an acute shortage of suitable studio space to continue producing Film & TV content and meet demand. This threatens the UK’s position as one of the top three global major production hubs, the other two being the US and Canada.

RBWM is situated within the West London Cluster and home to Bray Studios. Therefore, the proposals offer the niche opportunity to provide a brand-new purpose-built studio within RBWM to meet the huge demand for new purpose-built studio space and to become the new face of premium UK Film & TV production, with the capability to produce large state-of-the-art productions for global distribution. The proposals will provide significant socio-economic opportunities and benefits to RBWM.

What is the West London Cluster?

A cluster of notable Film & TV Studios west of London capable and responsible for some of the biggest and best-quality films and TV productions to ever be produced in the UK (including Pinewood and Shepperton Studios). It comprises world-class talent and resource that is deemed ‘irreplaceable’ and rivals top global production hubs. The Cluster is integral to the UK’s film success.

What is a Film & TV Studio?

Studios are designated places providing facilities and services to the screen-based Creative Industries and are predominantly used for the sole purpose of filming films and/or television broadcasts.

What is an Outdoor Film Backlot?

Outdoor open areas which can vary in size, used for filming and the construction of exterior sets (such as street scenes) and models, as well as for staging special effects.

What is a Sound Stage?

Soundproofed hangar-like buildings for indoor shooting and sound recording. Sound stages typically require large floor plates to accommodate a range of production types.

What types of activities will be happening in the Film Studio?
  • Development—the beginning work of a project including concept and script development, casting, market evaluation, crewing, and financing.
  • Pre-production— scriptwriting, deal making, and production planning, set building.
  • Production—Film/TV shooting on set.
  • Post-production—processing film such as editing, applying music and special effects, taking out background noise, and CGI work.
  • Market Testing—re-shooting, editing, and refining before distribution.
Will the studios be operating 24/7?

Yes, there is the possibility that there will be activity on the film & TV studios overnight in a 24-hour period, however it is the intention to limit activity in the late hours to indoor areas only. This will ensure minimal disturbance to local residents and the environment such as in terms of noise, activity, and lighting.

Will the backlot be used for night shoots?

This is not likely as the benefit of using the backlot is the natural light.

How tall/big are the buildings?

The highest buildings are the sound stages which range from 18m to 21m high. The offices which help screen them are 8 to 12 metres high, the car park is 10m and workshops are 6m high.

How big is the Nature Park?

C.16.9 hectares

What are the benefits of the scheme? How many of these benefits will be felt/ retained in Holyport?

Socio-economic and environmental benefits including:

  • Creation of c. 1,500 FTE (full time equivalent) local jobs and c. 1,800 jobs created through construction
  • Creation of c. 3000 well paid jobs with high level job retention in RBWM
  • Support local businesses through the need for, and utilisation of, supporting services (e.g., painters, decorators, taxi services, carpentry, catering, etc).
  • Boost the local economy and local spending, with c. £40m GVA per annum towards Berkshire
  • Creation of training and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Building relationships and partnering with local and regional academic institutions to drive career opportunities in the creative industries for RBWM
  • A new ecologically-enhancing nature park for Holyport and delivering significant biodiversity net gain across the Site.
  • Sustainable supply chain benefits and utilisation of the existing West Cluster infrastructure
  • Net-zero carbon design with ambitions to far-exceed target energy credentials
Principle of Development
Why on greenbelt land?

The supply of readily available purpose-built soundstage space suitable for large-scale productions is exhausted, and existing industrial warehouses are deemed unsuitable for conversion to high-quality production. Owing to their niche design and scale requirements, purpose-built film & TV studios must therefore be directed towards large sites with minimal constraints. Taking this into consideration, site suitability has been assessed in the borough in terms of availability of the land, environmental designations, flood zones, proximity to residential and other sensitive land uses, visual impacts, security, accessibility, and access to power. This search has revealed that suitable land falls only within the green belt designation, at the Site.

Is the Council aware of your proposals?

Yes, the Council is aware of the proposals. The proposals presented herein have been put before officers at RBWM for consideration as part of a pre-application, submitted in August. The formal response of that pre-app has yet to be provided, but initial discussions have taken place with officers.

How likely do you think these plans are to get signed off by RBWM?

The planning application will be brought before members of the Planning Committee to discuss the merits of the application. Officers at the council will look at technical aspects of the application to produce a report to support members’ decision-making.

Have alternative sites been considered?

An ‘Alternative Sites Assessment’ had been conducted looking at appropriate sites in the area which could accommodate new film studios. The assessment concluded Land at Stroud Farm is the most suitable. Whilst RBWM looked at housing and commercial need in the borough they did not consider the need for new studio space.

What is the timeline for the development? Breaking ground? Commencing production?

Under current timescales the plan is to submit an outline planning application in November followed by a period of statutory consultation where residents will be able to comment on the application. If consented, Reserved Matters applications will need to be brought forward to confirm the detail of the scheme. Whilst it is hard to predict timescales exactly, the earliest ground could be broken would be 18 months.

Have you got an operator who wants to use the Studios? Who will use the Studios?

There is an end-user who has significant interest in operating the studios, although cannot be disclosed at this present time, for commercially sensitive reasons.

Will this be a phased development?

No, it is the intention to build the entire scheme at once.

Has this land already been purchased by the developers?

Greystoke Land have entered into an ‘option’ with the landowner adding if Holyport Studios were approved Greystoke would then purchase the land.

Traffic and Access
Why has access been proposed on Forest Green Road?

This is the most appropriate location for the access, to reduce impacts on roads to the north.

How many cars will be arriving and leaving the studios each day?

The development is forecast to generate around 300 – 350 movements in the peak hours (08:00-09:00 and 17:00-18:00), the significant majority of which will be staff movements.  This has been calculated using data made available for other film studio developments, predominantly on the periphery of London. We will promote the use of, and support, public transport options where feasible.

I am concerned with lots of traffic on Forest Green Road and surrounding roads as a result of the development.

Traffic impact has been considered and assessed to date, by using survey work to establish existing baseline conditions. The impact of the development on a number of junctions using this baseline data has been assessed and the results conclude that all junctions modelled have capacity to accommodate the additional trips from the development. A new roundabout is proposed to assist access into the development and ensure smooth vehicle flows on Forest Green Road.

Can you publish your traffic assessment data for Forest Green Road?

A Transport Assessment will be submitted with the planning application which is a comprehensive document outlining amongst other things what traffic assessment data was used to draw conclusions on traffic impact. The public will be able to view this document once the application has been submitted via the Planning Portal on RBWM’s website.

Is there parking? Where will vehicles be expected to park? Why is there so much parking proposed?

There will be parking provided on site to accommodate all vehicles in association with the operation of the film & TV studio. Approximately 1,000 spaces will be provided. It is the intention that no vehicles in relation to the development parks nearby or off site.

What types of vehicles will be driving to the Site?

There will be limited HGV movements throughout the day, with most of the vehicles being cars.

Does Forest Green Road have a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes? Will the studios require articulated lorries?

A weight limit was imposed by RBWM however businesses that are operating in the area are exempt. If Holyport Studios was consented the development would be exempt.

What is happening to the public rights of way? Can people still use them?

The intention is to divert two pathways to the south and create a new path to the north which is indicated on the masterplan. People will be able to use these rights of way as normal.

How will the nature park be used/ How will people access or travel to the nature park?

The nature park will be publicly accessible for people to enjoy at their leisure. It is not intended to purposefully attract new visitors who do not live locally or nearby and that do not already use the existing public rights of way on site or in the surrounding area. People will be able to access the park via the redirected and new public rights of way.

Noise & Light
I am concerned there will be lots of noise all day long.  How will noise be mitigated/reduced so local neighbours do not hear anything?

The nature of a film & TV studio can mean that there can be activity 24/7. It is the intention to avoid noise where feasible first such as through careful orientation and positioning of the built form, and secondly to reduce and mitigate any residual noise that may arise throughout its operation via acoustic screening, landscape buffering and limiting activities that take place externally in the late evening/overnight.

What will the impact be on sunlight and daylight?

Due to the distance between neighbouring residential properties and the proposed built form, there will be no impact on sunlight and daylight levels enjoyed by residents.

Will there be light pollution? What are you proposing to do about lighting when it is dark?

A lighting strategy will be included as part of the outline application. If the application is successful, this strategy will then inform the detail which will be provided in a reserved matters application. The strategy will look at how lighting can be sensitively designed and sited to avoid negative impacts on local residents and dark skies.

What will the impact be on views?

Development structures will be visible to walkers using local footpaths within approximately 1km of the Site. Views will also be seen from Forest Green and immediately adjoining properties. Views have been assessed to be more limited from the local settlement areas of Fifield and Holyport due to layers of intervening hedges and trees. Longer distance views have been identified to be overall quite limited.

As new structures are likely to be simple and shed like in form, they can resemble agricultural structures so not appear urban in character. This and the retention of hedges and trees almost entirely throughout the Site will also assist screening of new structures when they are first constructed. Mounding and tree planting along the frontage of Forest Green road will be used to achieve faster screening of the new buildings from the road and adjoining properties. Incorporating an extensive new structure of native tree planting along site boundaries and within the Site will help reduce views of new buildings so that trees become the main backdrop to local views rather than the new buildings themselves.

Landscape & Ecology
Are you proposing to cut down trees? What will happen to them?

A baseline survey has been carried out to understand the existing arboricultural features on site and inform the proposals. All high-quality trees and ancient/ veteran trees can be retained for the lifetime of the development and protected during construction. For example, robust buffer zones are incorporated to ensure no damage to root protection areas. Some minor tree loss is proposed (lower quality trees) and some limited removal of tightly cut and species-poor agricultural hedgerows.

Are the ponds being kept?

Yes, all ponds on the Site are being kept and protected and it is the intention that new wildlife-friendly ponds will be created in addition.

Existing wildlife lives on the arable land. What are you proposing for the “nature reserve”?

In the past the site has been extensively farmed. The proposals would retain the existing ponds, ditches, and hedgerows to protect and encourage wildlife. The provision of new wetland on Site C will encourage wildlife.

Tawny and Barn owls have been recorded on site. The added rough grassland will accommodate small mammals on the eastern side of the site which provide prey for owls. No reptiles or water voles were recorded.

What will happen to the bats/ Great Crested Newts (GCN)?

The existing habitats and protected species on site have been subject to detailed ecological survey work undertaken during 2021-22. That survey information has informed the masterplan, which has been carefully designed to allow for retention of features such as woodland, ponds and veteran trees, which in turn support protected species (i.e., bats and GCN). Large buffer zones are proposed around the existing ponds to ensure no detrimental impacts on Great Crested Newt breeding habitat; and veteran and valuable trees will be retained to maintain bat foraging habitat and flightlines around the site. One pond to the west of the Site will be enhanced as part of the proposals through some clearing which will allow more natural light to reach the pond. The new nature park will include new planting and wetland habitat creation designed to be of value to bats and great crested newts, as well as other amphibians, birds, and invertebrates.

Flooding & Drainage
Will this increase flooding and worsen drainage?

Robust baseline flood modelling has been undertaken to understand the current flood risk in the area of the Site. This information has been applied to the masterplan so as to not increase the likelihood or severity of flooding off Site. Measures incorporated to ensure this include widening some of the existing ditch network, provision of compensatory flood storage areas, and the creation of bunds and some raising of land levels to manage where water flows. The surface water flood risk to the areas outside the Site boundary will be improved to the northeast and to the land in the centre of the Site.

With respect to drainage, surface water attenuation features such as sustainable drainage (SuDS) ponds are proposed to store rainfall falling on the Site and ensure that there is no worsening of the existing drainage arrangements as a result of the proposed development. Indeed, in more extreme rainfall events there will be an improvement to the existing drainage, as the release of rainfall to the local ditch network will be managed and slowed through the inclusion of SuDS features.

Are there listed buildings on the Site?

There are no designated heritage assets located within the Site. There are a number of listed buildings located within the vicinity of the Site, including to the north and south east.

Are you going to take on board the feedback you receive via this public consultation process?

Yes. We understand that you as local residents will know the Site and surrounding area inside and out, better than most. Therefore, your insight and constructive feedback is invaluable to the overall development of the masterplan. An outline planning approach means that the proposals provide great opportunity for flex on certain aspects of the scheme as deemed appropriate before the detail is worked up in a reserved matters application.

All feedback will be carefully considered and reviewed. The planning application will be supported by a Statement of Community Involvement which will present how the public consultation has been undertaken, what feedback has been received, and how this feedback has been taken into account.

Contact Us

If you have any queries, please contact Melisa Geshteja of SP Broadway at melisa@spbroadway.com