A miserable future for Pinewood... unless residents accept the expansion of one of the world's busiest studios
A little to the west of London, the mighty Thor battles evil dwarves, Helena Bonham Carter sings "Master of the House" in a near-perfect recreation of French Revolution-era Paris, and James Bond is on the pull.
The Pinewood Studios Group, which includes former rival Shepperton, still manages to persuade some of the biggest movies in the world to shoot in the UK. Thor: The Dark World is likely to be a monster hit after the record-breaking success of The Avengers, in which the hammer-wielding god was one of the main superheroes; Les Misérables has been picking up major gongs during the awards season; and Skyfall was such a monster hit that 007 should keep drinking martinis for another 50 years.
But Pinewood wants more. Next month, the studios, which have been run by chief executive Ivan Dunleavy since 2000, will submit a planning application to build new facilities next to Pinewood's existing studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire.
Dunleavy argues that this will ensure that Britain's film industry remains competitive in an increasingly global market where high-tech blockbusters need the most up-to-date studios available. There will be additional film and television stages, car parking, workshops and production offices.
Producers of television programmes with budgets of more than £1m are also looking to take advantage of a 25 per cent tax break that comes into force in April, meaning that there is a need for far more filming space in the UK.
However, Pinewood recently failed to expand its empire, when in 2011 it spent £7.1m before the Government refused permission for a £200m development. Pinewood has since cleared a separate site and a spokesman confirms that it is "dotting the Is and crossing the Ts" on its latest proposal.
The original project would have created 10,000 jobs over a decade and house buyers would even have had the opportunity to live in a mini-Hollywood with the construction of 420 homes. The Stop Project Pinewood Campaign of local residents successfully fought off the plans, which they largely opposed because of the housing development.
This time around, Pinewood has been careful to get the locals onside. Since June, it has been involved in a detailed public consultation process to explain why the expansion is needed and its ideas help form the basis of the application that will soon be with South Bucks District Council.
The results of this consultation process show that the residents remain concerned that Pinewood will expand onto the green belt. Pinewood argues that it cannot expand on its existing site as it is "already densely developed and capacity is very limited".
Despite Pinewood's attempts to woo the public, history is not on the studio's side – as the campaigners' website makes clear. It points to a 1979 application to develop public leisure facilities at the site, which were rejected as "inappropriate, out of character".
Pinewood is used to housing heroes like Superman and CIA agent Jack Ryan. In this plot, there are plenty of critics who consider Pinewood to be the villain.
Despite its name, Pinewood Shepperton is not just a British business. It also owns studios in Germany, Canada, Malaysia and even the Dominican Republic as it looks to preserve its status as one of the world's premier providers of production sets. For example, Pacific Rim, a giant robots versus invading aliens flick from Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro, nearly took up the entirety of Pinewood Totonto, including the 45900sqft "mega stage". The Dominican Republic studios house a huge water tank with diving and marine equipment.
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