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Pinewood promote development plans ahead of appeal

08-Aug-2010 • Bond News

The film studio, which plays host to James Bond, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, is planning to turn 105 acres of greenbelt land next to the M25 into "living sets" of 17 locations from around the world - reports the Telegraph.

"Over there will be San Francisco, behind that, near that clump of trees will be Amsterdam and Venice. Over on the other side will Boston, Prague and Berlin," says Ivan Dunleavy, Pinewood's chief executive as he looks out across the proposed site from the roof of Pinewood's current studios across the road.

"It really will be a unique place to live, who can wake up in Paris, cross a Venetian canal, and be in New Orleans before you've finished your first cup of coffee."

The streets won't be the paper ones seen in Hollywood. Pinewood is proposing to build real bricks and mortar homes for about 3,100 people. "It will be a living, breathing, community with shops and a school," says Mr Dunleavy. "It will just look different."

Mr Dunleavy says the 1,400 homes will be state-of-the-art. "The facades will be built to look like Paris or Vienna, but behind they will be normal homes with 100 Mb broadband."

Between the flats and houses there will be normal streets so the milkman won't disturb the filming of James Bond in his latest brush with Jaws.

However, the £200m Project Pinewood plan to create a little bit of Hollywood on the outskirts of Slough will only go ahead if Pinewood emerges victorious from an epic battle with planning authorities and its vociferous locals.

Last October, the South Buckinghamshire District Council rejected Pinewood's application to turn the green belt site into "the biggest living creative hub in the UK".

Pinewood has appealed to The Planning Inspectorate and a public enquiry is expected next spring. People close to the project are growing increasingly confident that the decision will favour Pinewood due the "very special circumstances".

"Pinewood Studios has a history to be proud of and a heritage to be cherished. Pinewood Studios is a modern working film and television studio and the only provider of world-class production facilities and services on such a scale in Europe," said Mr Dunleavy in Pinewood's planning application. "But it cannot rest on its laurels. It has to keep pace with accelerating change and competition in the worldwide creative industries. Film and television production is rapidly evolving with advances in technology and a proliferation of new forms of content delivery. Pinewood Studios must respond if it is to play its role in maintaining the UK as a leading creative nation.

Pinewood is a uniquely innovative response to the challenges not just of today, but of the future."

Mr Dunleavy says the project is even more important now than when it was first proposed in 2007 because it will create up to 960 jobs and bring in cash from producers choosing to film in the UK.

"This is a very important project for Pinewood and for UK creative industries," he says.

If planning decisions go in Pinewood's favour, building on the project, which has the backing of Ridley Scott, Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Puttnam, could start in early 2013.

However, the residents of Iver Heath, a village that surrounds Pinewood, are gearing up for a David and Goliath battle to halt the project in its tracks. Although Sylvie Lowe, chairman of Stop Project Pinewood group, is "immensely proud" of living near the home of Bond and the Carry On films, she does not want "our village doubled in size".

The Stop Project Pinewood group allege that Project Pinewood is a "clever wheeze" to "turn a failing film company into a real estate developer". Pinewood denies the suggestion and reiterates that the project is designed to ensure the long-term future of UK creative industries.

Stop Project Pinewood's latest plan to scupper the development is to use Victorian village green laws. The campaign group is using two 19th century laws – The Inclosure Act 1857 and the Commons Act 1876 – which make it a criminal offence to do anything that may injure the green, or interrupt the use of enjoyment of it as a place for exercise or recreation by placing anything on the fields. "If you've used something continually for 20 years it almost becomes yours," Ms Lowe says. "You can ask for that to become the village green."

Pinewood says the village green application is a delaying tactic which will cost the local community £200,000. The studio also says it will be difficult to prove that the villagers have used the land historically as it was a landfill site for the M25.

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