Second major film and TV studios plan revealed for site near Sky Studios Elstree

An aerial view of Legal & General's proposed film and TV studios site east of Rowley Lane and bordering the A1.

An aerial view of Legal & General's proposed film and TV studios site east of Rowley Lane and bordering the A1, and just north of where Sky Studios Elstree is currently being built. - Credit: Google Maps

A second new film and TV studios could be built in Hertfordshire neighbouring the Sky Studios Elstree development.

Developers have put forward a site adjoining the state-of-the-art Sky complex for consideration under Hertsmere Borough Council's ‘Call for Employment Sites’ 2021 appeal.

The 15 hectares plot, managed by Legal & General, sits alongside the A1, and is just north of the Sky scheme currently under construction. 

It is undeveloped open land that was previously earmarked for a centre of sporting excellence. This planning permission was not implemented and has now expired.

A site map of the proposed TV and film studios adjoining the current Sky Studios Elstree development.

A site map of the proposed TV and film studios adjoining the current Sky Studios Elstree development submitted to Hertsmere as part of the borough council's call for potential employment sites. - Credit: UMC Architects / L&G

The Green Belt site east of Rowley Lane, Borehamwood, is under the same management as the adjacent Sky Studios Elstree project and "could be developed in a similar way", planning documents reveal.

Capitalising on the UK industry’s world-class reputation, it's the second proposed studios development along Rowley Lane, with Gilston Investments Ltd, owners of the Wrotham Park Estate, also putting forward a 90-acre site for the 21 stage Hertswood Studios.

Of the L&G proposals, the site questionnaire states: "The site would form a natural extension to the Elstree Way Employment Area and the clustering of other film and TV studios in the local area which includes the Sky Studios Elstree scheme (which is currently under construction), Elstree Studios and the BBC Studios."

An aerial view of Legal & General's proposed film and TV studios site east of Rowley Lane and bordering the A1.

Aerial view of Legal & General's proposed film and TV studios development site east of Rowley Lane and alongside the A1, and just north of where Sky Studios Elstree is currently being built. - Credit: Google Maps

A 'Call for Employment Sites' submission, prepared by planning and development consultants Lichfields states "there are limited opportunities for studio growth on existing brownfield land".

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The report concludes: "As well as being generally suitable for employment development, the site is the optimum location to accommodate additional film and studio floorspace.

"Synergies will be created with the adjacent Sky Studios scheme which cannot be achieved on any other large-scale site in the borough.

"In overall terms, the site allocation will deliver huge benefits through job creation etc, it will build on the strengths of the TV and film sector in Elstree and Borehamwood and it will allow Hertsmere to capitalise on the expected growth in this sector.

"The co-location of new TV and film studios will be far more efficient in land use terms and provide a number of benefits in terms of sustainability."

L&G, which manages the plot on behalf of the landowner, ReAssure Limited, is working closely with Sky, who support the allocation of the site to the north of their own project for additional TV and film studio development and "agree the need case is clear".

Although Sky Studios Elstree on the southern half of the wider L&G site will provide a significant amount of new studio space, Lichfields notes capacity being created at that development "is already fully accounted for and so there remains an additional need for TV and film related development in South West Hertfordshire".

Production spend on high-end television (HETV) – drama productions costing more than £1 million per episode – is growing rapidly.

Lichfields say the total spend on HETV in the UK in 2019 was the highest since reporting began. 

Even allowing for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on halting production activity for part of last year, the 2020 spend of £1.49bn was the second highest on record, the BFI reports.

With more and more streaming sites requiring content, there is a need for floodspace.

On behalf of its clients, Lichfields reports: "Studio space is becoming increasingly limited, especially in Greater London, a location which is key for attracting large scale TV and film productions into the UK.

"Many of the larger studio facilities such as Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden have been operating at full capacity for years as evidenced by their recent planning applications for proposed development in order to extend existing studio footprints to cater for increased demand."

Work is already under way at Sky Studios Elstree and the purpose-built facility is expected to be operational in 2022.

Lichfields' submission for the adjoining site states: "Sky will work closely with the existing local studios as well as the wider community to further support Elstree as a key part of the UK creative industry.

"Additional studios space on the site to the north would further strengthen these links and help to cement the local area as the UK’s premier TV and film studios location."

If similar in scale to the Sky Studios Elstree site, the proposed new development would create in the region of 1,500 full-time direct jobs in TV and film production, plus further employment from studio operations and during the build stage.

A total of 21 potential new sites for employment in Hertsmere have emerged following the renewed appeal issued in order to map out options for the borough's economic development.

Ross Whear, head of planning and economic development, said: "The next step will be to assess whether they meet the requirements for inclusion as an employment site and their suitability for development."

An overview of the responses from the latest 'Call for Employment Sites' has been published and is available to view at https://www.hertsmere.gov.uk/Planning--Building-Control/Planning-Policy/Local-Plan/New-Local-Plan/Call-for-sites-and-HELAA.aspx.

It includes a map of all the new sites that have been promoted.

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