Cotswold town squares up to Working Title over film plan

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When they introduced zombies to the suburban streets of north London, the makers of Shaun of the Dead were welcomed. But their latest venture - a "buddy" comedy about a Metropolitan Police officer provisionally entitled Hot Fuzz - got a cooler reception in Stow-on-the-Wold.

The prospect of the Cotswold town being used for two weeks' filming by Working Title - makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and the Bridget Jones films - so alarmed some traders that the company was told it would not be able to shoot there. The decision has divided the community and led to rows and recriminations. The councillor who led the anti-filming lobby has now resigned, although he claims the two events are unconnected.

The film tells the story of a London police officer assigned to a country town who discovers a dark underbelly to rural life. It stars Simon Pegg, who also starred in Shaun of the Dead and has the same writer, Edgar Wright. Filming is due to begin in the spring and it could be released at the end of next year.

"It would be great fun," said Vera Norwood, a former mayor, who runs a craft shop in the town square, which would have been closed for the filming. "It's excellent publicity for the town, we would get compensation for any lost business and the film people would spend money here."

The controversy began several weeks ago, when Working Title approached the town council for permission to use the square. Working Title said a decision was needed urgently and so a council member, Robert Warner, took soundings from some fellow traders, who were mostly against the idea because of the disruption.

But when it emerged that Working Title had been rejected, many others were incensed that the opportunity had been missed. Ms Norwood said: "The matter should have been put to a full meeting of the town council with the public present. It is a very short-sighted decision because this is an excellent company and it might be a huge hit film."

She was supported by Tom Morris, the deputy mayor, who said: "Perhaps it would have been better to have had a proper discussion in the town council before we decided."

Mr Warner said yesterday: "The majority of people I spoke to were negative and I relayed this back. I didn't know at the time that this was such a big company or what the film was about and I don't know if it would have made any difference. I was only trying to do my bit to help out."

Nira Park, producer of Hot Fuzz, stressed that all was not lost for Stow-on-the-Wold, which was one of five possible locations.

She said: "We haven't made a final decision yet and will certainly consider what Stow people are now saying.

"It's quite funny really, because one of themes in the film is village politics and the fact that you never quite know what is going on beneath the surface in these quiet, rural places."