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Marlow Film Studios: Government investment sparks debate

Jun 20, 2023

Supporters of the pending Marlow Film Studios project have declared new multi-million-pound government investment into the industry as ‘exciting’ but eco campaigners remain unconvinced.

Several campaigners took to the streets to silent protest as Marlow Film Studios CEO Robert Laycock declared the county to be on the verge of becoming “the world’s best base for producing blockbuster movies”, at an event on Monday, June 5, held in collaboration with Buckinghamshire New University.

Mr Laycock added: “The Yellow Brick Road has been built right here for the Wizard of Oz sequels. Wicked, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones, Snow White and Deadpool are just a few of the box office big hitters here in Bucks in just the last 12 months.”

The event, chaired by former Culture Secretary Lord Vaizey, who was responsible for the introduction of tax breaks encouraging the growth of the UK’s film sector during his tenure, was aimed at promoting the employment opportunities offered by the proposed Marlow Film Studios development.

However, while industry and educational heavyweights discussed the merits of advertising creative industry roles to BNU students, members of the well-known campaign group Extinction Rebellion were staging a silent protest just outside.

Protestors outside the building, and unaffiliated local campaign group Save Marlow’s Greenbelt, said more crucial to the conversation is the project’s prospective site – an area of Greenbelt land in Marlow.

Last week, central government announced an additional £50 million investment into regional areas as part of an initiative to nurture the British creative sector.

Monica Chadha, board governor for the British Film Institute, alluded to the government’s prioritisation of the creative sector while speaking on a panel at the BNU event at the beginning of the month.

She said: “Investor confidence in the UK is at an all-time high. The job for us as a country and county is to excite the human spirit to get people into roles from all walks of life.”

With the world-famous Pinewood Studios based in Iver, Bucks, and the recently approved Wycombe Film Studios project near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire Council has expressed optimism about the county’s future in wake of fresh investment.

Council leader Martin Tett said: “This exciting announcement is firmly in line with our own ambitious plans to grow our local economy in Buckinghamshire and the important role the creative industries, and in particular, the film sector will play in that.

“We have an incredibly strong offer here in Buckinghamshire to attract more investment and to create jobs – and to offer a big contribution to the overall UK economy through our local film and other creative industries.”

Mr Tett is also the chairman of the Buckinghamshire Growth Board, a partnership of public and private bodies focused on engaging with central government about local and regional opportunities and challenges.

However, oppositionary voices to the proposed Marlow development have called on the council to take responsibility in their role of protecting designated Greenbelt land and redirecting government funds.

Chairman of Save Marlow’s Greenbelt Richard Sherwin said: “There are plenty of existing studio sites which could be expanded or larger brownfield sites which could be developed instead.

“This investment does not need to destroy Greenbelt, which is needed to prevent urban sprawl, allow the community to enjoy nature and mitigate the effects of climate change.”We should be looking at how £50 million could be invested in pre-existing studio sites and into other areas of the creative sector. It shouldn’t be an incentive to destroy 90 acres of green space.”

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