£15.6million Elstree Studios expansion gets under way in Hertsmere - the 'British Hollywood'

Roger Morris, David Conway, Oliver Dowden, Kevin Church, senior project manager of R. G. Carter, and Cllr Bright MBE.

Pictured at the building site of the new soundstages at Elstree Studios are, from left to right, Roger Morris, David Conway, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Kevin Church, senior project manager of R. G. Carter, and Cllr Bright MBE. The George Lucas Stages can be seen behind them. - Credit: Hertsmere Borough Council.

Building work has started on the expansion of the famous Elstree Studios – the home of Strictly Come Dancing and The Crown.

Hertsmere has moved one step closer towards cementing its reputation as the ‘British Hollywood’ as construction work at Elstree got under way this week.

Work to build two new soundstages and ancillary workshops on the site of the former Big Brother house has begun, after contractors R G Carter Construction were awarded the main contract for the £15.6 million project by studio owners Hertsmere Borough Council.

Cllr Morris Bright and Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden in conversation at the construction site of the new Elstree soundstages

Cllr Morris Bright and Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden in conversation at the construction site of the new Elstree Studios soundstages, which will be built on the location of the former Big Brother house. - Credit: Hertsmere Borough Council.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Hertsmere council leader Morris Bright MBE, and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board member David Conway joined Roger Morris, managing director of Elstree Studios, to mark the occasion of the main construction work beginning.

Enabling works has been under way at the site since earlier this year.

The two new soundstages, once operational, will create at least 800 new jobs, plus apprenticeship and other learning opportunities for local school leavers and the unemployed.

An artist's impression of the two new soundstages which will be built on the former Big Brother house at Elstree Studios.

An artist's impression of the two new soundstages which will be built on the former Big Brother house at Elstree Studios. - Credit: Elstree Studios.

Councillor Morris Bright said: “This is a thrilling moment for Elstree Studios, its owners, Hertsmere Borough Council, and all the partners involved in this project. 

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"The creation of these two new soundstages and ancillary workshops will result in at least 800 new jobs, plus 120 new learner and apprenticeship opportunities.

"It represents a huge boost for our local economy and ensures new and exciting opportunities ahead for our residents and businesses.

"Coupled with the creation of the multi-million pound Sky Studios Elstree down the road, this project reinforces Hertsmere’s status as the number one home for film and TV production.

"It means that Hertsmere well and truly deserves to be known as 'British Hollywood', something we should all feel proud about.”

Councillors met on Wednesday, May 19 to approve the award of the contract.

In addition, councillors agreed to an increase of £2.2 million for the build, mainly due to construction material price increases.

Plans for a new electricity substation and enhanced acoustics at the site were also approved, bringing the total project cost to £15.6million.

Elstree Studios managing director Roger Morris, David Conway, Kevin Church, Oliver Dowden MP, and Cllr Morris Bright MBE.

Elstree Studios managing director Roger Morris, Hertfordshire LEP's David Conway, Kevin Church, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the Hertsmere MP, and Hertsmere Borough Council leader, Cllr Morris Bright MBE. - Credit: Hertsmere Borough Council.

Paul Hutchinson, director at R G Carter, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed to deliver this exciting specialist facility that will not only benefit the growing creative sector, but also provide the local community with fantastic opportunities.

"We are looking forward to working in partnership with Hertsmere Borough Council and Elstree Studios and supporting their ambitious plans within the British film and TV industry.”

As part of the project, £100,000 per year from the rental income received by the council will be invested locally into creative industries, including local media and creative enterprise and initiatives.

The scheme has been part-funded by a £6 million Getting Building Fund investment from the government and Hertfordshire LEP.

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden said: "It is great to be here marking the expansion of the Elstree Studios site, as work begins building two new soundstages and ancillary workshops.

"I am thrilled to support this project that will bolster Elstree’s status as the home of UK film and this country’s position as a creative industries superpower.

"This is a great example of our local council and this government working together to strengthen our creative industries, both here in Hertsmere and nationally.

"As the council has done its part to support the project, now the government will deliver the extra £6 million in funding the project needs to get the show on the road."

Hertfordshire LEP board member David Conway said: “Our investment towards the expansion of Elstree Studios is a major vote of confidence in Hertfordshire’s thriving creative cluster and will not only boost the studio but also the vast network of businesses and multitude of jobs which supports its success. 

“It is crucial that we continue to prioritise the development of Hertfordshire’s key growth sectors, particularly those that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, to strengthen the county’s economic bedrock and provide high quality employment opportunities for local residents. 

“Through our £16.8m Getting Building Fund allocation, we are supporting five key projects to boost the county’s high value sector clusters including film and TV, life sciences and smart construction.

"Collectively, the projects are set to unlock 12,100 sq m of commercial space and bring forth up to 1,500 new jobs to accelerate local economic recovery.”

The £900m Getting Building Fund was announced in August 2020 to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country.

It supports the delivery of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, selected by LEPs and Mayoral Combined Authorities and endorsed by the Housing Secretary, to fuel local recovery and kickstart economic growth amid the pandemic. 

Elstree Studios is home to BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and award-winning Netflix series The Crown.

It currently boasts seven film and TV stages, plus a green screen stage, providing over 60,000 sq ft of stage space with stages ranging from 3,844 sq ft to 15,770 sq ft, and from 25 ft to 50 ft in height.

The George Lucas stages are two of the tallest in Europe.