Proposed new Herts film studios included in Hertsmere Borough Council's Media Quarter in draft Local Plan
- Credit: Bidwells
Plans for the UK's largest film studios complex in Hertfordshire have moved a step closer.
The proposed Hertswood Studios site has been included in Hertsmere’s new Media Quarter in the council's draft Local Plan.
What is Hertsmere's 'Media Quarter'?
Hertsmere Borough Council has designated the Media Quarter between Rowley Lane and the A1 in Borehamwood as a Special Policy Area.
The huge Hertswood Studios project is proposed for land in this specialist employment zone in Hertsmere’s draft Regulation 18 Local Plan.
The Media Quarter covers Sky Studios Elstree, a development of 13 sound stages that will eventually host Sky Originals, as well as major productions from Universal Pictures, Focus Features and Working Title.
This site – Site A on the map below – is currently under construction and is due to become operational next year.
It also includes 15.1 hectares directly to the north of the current Sky Studios Elstree project for part two of the scheme (Site B), and the 34.8 ha land south of Rowley Lane earmarked for the proposed 21 stage Hertswood Studios (Site C).
The Local Plan document states: "The proposed Media Quarter will incorporate an area of previously safeguarded employment land off Rowley Lane.
"It will include the new Sky Studios, currently under construction, as well as a further 50ha of adjacent land which is earmarked for the development of additional sound stages and supporting facilities, including the proposed second phase of the Sky Studios scheme."
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The draft Local Plan also states: "By making provision for a cluster of creativity and knowledge through the allocation of the Media Quarter, the council wishes to build on the success of the sector and create a focal point for the film and TV industry in the UK.
"This reflects the government’s ambition to restart many of the major feature film and HETV (High-End TV) projects throughout the UK, and will help the UK meet the increased demand for streaming and screen services."
Hertsmere has two other designated Special Policy Areas – Elstree Aerodrome and South Mimms Services at Junction 23 of the M25.
The council says limiting of uses in these areas to those related to the identified specialisms will enhance their attractiveness to further occupiers.
The Wrotham Park Estate's plans
Plans for a new 800-home community off Cowley Hill in Borehamwood have been included in the borough’s draft Regulation 18 Local Plan published on Monday.
Submitted by property consultancy Bidwells and planning consultancy Woolf Bond Planning on behalf of The Wrotham Park Estate, the plans aim to provide much-needed housing, as well as a new neighbourhood centre, public open space, and onsite primary school provision.
Subject to formal allocation and subsequent planning permission, the 170-acre site will deliver around 350 affordable homes.
The news follows March’s announcement that Bidwells has also submitted plans, as part of the council’s call for employment sites, to build the UK’s largest studio complex in the borough just four miles south of South Mimms.
This project, called Hertswood Studios, promises to create thousands of jobs, contribute over £1billion to the local economy, and further strengthen the historical importance of Hertsmere as a major film production centre.
Plans for the state-of-the-art studios, which will sit less than a mile away from the new housing development off Cowley Hill, have been proposed in Hertsmere Borough Council’s draft Regulation 18 Local Plan.
The Wrotham Park Estate, a historic landowner, has owned both sites since the 18th century. The estate has worked on a collaborative basis with Hertsmere BC and Hertfordshire County Council to secure the allocation of the land to provide for these sustainable residential and commercial developments.
What is planned for Hertswood Studios?
The film studios complex could see the delivery of 1 million sq ft of studio space, including 21 stages, supporting workshops, and a hotel for visiting film stars and crew.
The proposals also include 600,000 sq ft of college space, which will operate alongside Elstree Screen Arts Academy, providing local young workers and those looking for a career change with the opportunity to be part of two of the UK’s fastest growing industries – film and television.
Branded Hertswood Studios, and backed by the Department for International Trade, the complex would be built adjacent to the Legal & General-backed Sky Studios development and will form part of the UK’s first film industry cluster.
Oxford Economics predicts the 90-acre scheme will contribute £1.17 billion to the local economy every year, while providing investors with a huge opportunity to tap into Britain’s rapidly growing film, TV and creative industries.
At the heart of both the residential and commercial schemes will be sustainability, with the plans promising highly sustainable developments that incorporate energy-efficiency, renewable power and high-quality landscaping while reducing car dependency and congestion.
Subject to formal allocation at Regulation 19 – the second stage of the consultation process when forming a Local Plan – then a review by an independent planning inspector, and adoption of the new Local Plan, work on the new neighbourhood at Cowley Hill could commence in 2024, while work on Hertswood Studios could begin by 2023.
Giles Dobson, managing partner of Bidwells’ Rural division, said: “These plans for a new community and a world-leading film and TV cluster demonstrate the long-term commitment Wrotham Park has to the stewardship of the local area.
"As historic local landowners, the estate is making an investment into the long-term economic potential of Borehamwood. Unlike other cases that are far too common, the sites have not been reallocated to turn a quick profit, but instead to signal the estate’s commitment to working as a joint venture partner to provide what the local economy really needs.
“Looking ahead, we plan on working closely with Hertsmere Borough Council to deliver this scheme, consulting with the local communities who reside in the area, and build on the incredibly rich film heritage of Elstree and Borehamwood.”
What is a Local Plan?
Hertsmere’s draft Local Plan sets out how the borough could grow over the next 15 years and beyond, by providing homes for the next generation as well as the infrastructure and jobs needed to support this growth.
The document outlines how Hertsmere, which includes Potters Bar and South Mimms as well as Bushey, Shenley, Radlett, Borehamwood and Elstree, will meet the central government requirements to plan for at least 760 homes per year in the borough until 2038.
Residents will get a chance to have their say on the draft plan during a six-week engagement period, which is set to kick off next month.
Leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, Cllr Morris Bright MBE, explained: “Hertsmere is a fantastic place to live which we should rightly be proud of, but this popularity does cause pressures for homes and services.
"By planning for growth locally we can ensure that we deliver the homes we need alongside the jobs, infrastructure and services to support this growth.
"Without an up-to-date plan, development can be taken out of local hands and it could mean less money for delivering the facilities and services our residents want and need."
What happens next?
The draft plan will be considered at an executive meeting on Tuesday, September 14, before it is due to go to a full council meeting on Thursday, September 30.
Both meetings can be viewed live via the council’s webcast system.
If councillors agree to the plan moving to public engagement, a six-week period of engagement will start on Monday, October 11, giving residents and community groups a further opportunity to comment on the plan.
Portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Harvey Cohen, said: “We know that, as a small borough, we don’t have enough space in our towns and villages to accommodate all the homes required.
“Eighty per cent of our borough is currently Green Belt but not all of that is high quality, unspoilt countryside and a lot of it is not accessible to the public. By planning for growth locally we will maximise opportunities to create more public open space for residents.
“Essential to this plan is working with a range of organisations who will deliver the infrastructure we want to see in the borough, from Hertfordshire County Council on roads and schools to our local Clinical Commissioning Group on health services.
"We also need to work with neighbouring authorities to ensure that our plan works alongside theirs.
“Preparing a Local Plan is a complex process, and we still have some way to go, but it’s what our borough needs; planning for growth in a way that enhances what is special about Hertsmere, keeping it distinctive, connected, and creative, while ensuring that we remain a green, healthy and happy borough.”