UK TV & film workers increasingly jobless

The Hollywood strikes are starting to hit the UK, showing what a volatile job market the TV and film industry is. According to a survey, 75% of a broadcasting union’s members declared not to be working. The freelancers are out of job because most Hollywood productions in the UK are made with American actors who are refusing to work.

A quote from the head of the union includes:

The number of freelancers questioning their future in the industry should sound alarm bells. For too long we have seen a pattern of engaging crew where they are picked up and dropped again with little notice, protection or reassurances about future employment.

This hardly seems to be a case for inward investment in more studio space in the UK, does it?

Marlow Town Council finally comes off the fence… and falls flat on its face

Marlow Town Council has finally revealed its position on Marlow Film Studios. Well, kind of …

Cllr Richard Scott claims that his personal letter to Bucks Planning Authority represents Marlow Town Council’s decision to support the film studio. However, the so-called “decision” was made “informally” behind closed doors without a Clerk being present.

So … not actually an MTC decision then, just an agreement between a few chums with no relevance to the final decision that will be taken by Bucks Council.

The film studio is a huge local issue, so why wasn’t it debated at a regular council meeting according to statutory procedures so that members of the public could hear the arguments and express their views? Too democratic for them?

The fact that Marlow Town Council isn’t a statutory consultee is irrelevant – even Cookham Parish Council took a formal vote on the planning application and submitted a well-argued letter of objection signed by their Clerk.

In contrast, Cllr Scott’s rambling letter reads like one of the film studio’s PR releases. There is no scrutiny of the alleged benefits, no consideration of Greenbelt legislation. Cllr Colleen Stapley, as chair of their Environment and Wellbeing Committee, chooses to ignore the harm that the studio will cause to the local environment or the impact that 4,000 extra cars will have on our wellbeing and air quality. They can’t even get the facts straight – there will be 30 trainee places per year, not the 300 that Cllr Scott quotes.

If the council members had looked carefully at the statistics, they would realise that the majority of local people do actually object to the development. Most of the letters of support have been emailed in from outside the area (including one from MFS Director Robert Laycock’s mummy).

These are your elected representatives. Tell them your views and use your next vote wisely. And continue to object.

Balloons show the true scale of proposed film studio buildings

It is difficult to grasp the true scale of the proposed Marlow Film Studio so we created a demonstration. The balloon is 22 m high – the height of the proposed soundstages. It shows how the buildings would dominate the area and change Marlow’s character from an attractive riverside town to an industrial conurbation.

The area proposed for development spans over 90 acres of green land and Greenbelt affecting all of Marlow and the neighbouring towns of Bourne End, High Wycombe and Little Marlow. When you’re next passing by, picture huge industrial warehouses lining the A4155. No more poplar trees, no more views across to Winter Hill and no more natural green space. If you’ve seen the new Shinfield Studios next to the westbound M4 you’ll know how bad it would be. And you’d have plenty of time to admire the buildings because if it gets the go ahead you’ll be stuck in traffic jams caused by 4,000 staff commuting to and from the studio every day.

Object against these monstrosities now – protect what you value by preserving our Greenbelt.

MP Joy Morrissey opposes film studio plans

MP Joy Morrissey is opposing the proposed Marlow Film Studios development due to concerns about increased congestion and pollution in the town. She argues that the site, located on Greenbelt land within Little Marlow Lakes Country Park, holds a significant role in the town’s community appeal and well-being. Neglecting its protection could set a precedent for further inappropriate development, impacting locals and the environment. Morrissey also highlights issues such as heightened traffic levels, particularly at Westhorpe Junction, and worsened air quality in already designated Air Quality Management Areas. She emphasises that protecting such Greenbelt sites is crucial and that the current application falls short of meeting the high bar for development in these areas.

It is not too late – object today.

It does not need to be in London or be big, proves new development

Birmingham is set to become a significant center for premier television and film production with the establishment of ‘Digbeth Loc. Studios,’ a new high-profile studio complex in the Digbeth area. The studios have already attracted commitments from various acclaimed productions. The complex will be located within walking distance of Birmingham’s train stations, and will conserve the unique characteristics and heritage of Birmingham’s canalside buildings.

In other words, there is apparently a sound business case for a 80,000 sq ft studio, away from the fabled “West London cluster”, which tries to blend in with its surroundings, using existing buildings.

We clearly do not need a new large complex built on Greenbelt to support the British tv and film industry. Don’t believe the shiny PR hype!

Thames in Henley poses a significant health risk

The BBC reported that high levels of phosphates, nitrates and harmful bacteria were detected in the Thames, just upstream from Marlow, in Henley in June 2023, by environmental charity River Action. Phosphate and nitrate testing results indicate that the River Thames at Henley is excessively nutrient enriched and in a very poor ecological condition. The levels of E. coli recorded meant that the water in Henley would have posed a significant health risk to all water users, especially swimmers.

This was highlighted online by local naturalist Steve Backshall, when he accompanied River Action on the stretch of the river he uses regularly with his family.

If this is already the case in Henley today, what will the effect of 4,000 more people at the proposed Marlow film studio by for a local creaking Thames Water sewage treatment works and network?

Quotes from our future?

The once picturesque view of rolling meadows and trees has been ruined by the 50ft-high structure.

Residents say the developer ‘lied from day one’ about the size of the building. They also claim to have ‘grave concern’ over the noise, air and light pollution caused by construction.

“There were just enormous bangs at early hours. We’ve been told it’ll be 24 hours a day.” The pensioner, alleging the ‘width of the warehouse has trebled in size’, added that parking is also an issue.

Officials have disregarded the consequences.

Are these soundbites from the future with an approved plan for Marlow Film Studios? Not quite, but it is the reality hitting people in Redditch.

Don’t let it happen to us – object now even if you have already done so.

Hollywood film studio pauses £600m Hertfordshire job

The reality of a dwindling appetite for large-scale film studios is becoming a reality: Sunset Studios have put the construction of their £600 million film studio on hold. The delay is attributed to a review of the project in “light of cost inflation and rising interest rates”. The complex, originally planned to be a two-year construction project, includes multiple sound stages and workshops. Groundworks have been completed, but the main construction has not yet begun.

Let’s not forget that this complex is smaller than the proposed Marlow Film Studios and that they have a big name locked in. If they can’t make ends meet… This confirms our analysis of likely market saturation back in 2022 and Buckinghamshire Council’s independent study questioning the need for this size studio.

We don’t need such a large film studio complex and certainly not on Greenbelt. Please continue to object, even if you have already done so.

An update to the transport plan? Not really.

The renewed Transport Assessment submitted by Guernsey-registered Dido Property Limited to Buckinghamshire Planning is flawed and insufficient, according to a study by independent consultants Motion, commissioned by Save Marlow’s Greenbelt.

The assessment focuses on pedestrian, cyclist, and vehicle access, as well as proposed measures to mitigate transport network impacts. Motion confirms that pedestrian routes between the site and Marlow need to cross a substandard road, without any proposed enhancements.

They highlight narrow, poorly lit paths, lacking step-free access, and no controlled crossings, posing risks. Similarly, the cycle access proposals offer no improvements to the existing inadequate infrastructure. Motion states that few functional cycling journeys would occur due to these deficiencies.

Vehicular access, including 4,000 additional cars, raises concerns about congestion, lack of public transport, and inadequate analysis of impact on existing roads. Motion concludes that the current proposals would
result in an unacceptable impact on highway safety and overall that the application site is “unsustainable in transportation terms thereby failing to meet the requirements of paragraphs 105 and 110 (a) of the NPPF”.

This is a traffic disaster waiting to happen. You can still object, even if you have already done so.

A single arable field does not replace 90 acres of habitat.

Guernsey-registered Dido Property Limited claim to have “improved” their ecological benefits, through the acquisition of more land near the site, which they intend to convert.

Let’s not forget the damning report by Buckinghamshire’s ecologist, which has been given a more detailed refresh recently:

  • The baseline data on which the biodiversity net-gain calculations are made, is inaccurate, inconsistent and poorly justified, and therefore the calculation is wrong.
  • The mandatory mitigation hierarchy has not been followed, as offsetting, which should only be used as a last resort, has been adopted without exhausting on-site mitigation.
  • One of the impacted watercourses, has been incorrectly categorised and therefore not considered appropriately in the mitigation and net-gain calculations.
  • The solar panel covered green roofs will not be suitable mitigation for the loss of ground nesting bird habitat.
  • The conversion of arable to biodiversity rich pasture of the newly acquired field, will not be suitable mitigation for the loss of 90 acres of rich wildlife habitat, supporting multiple priority and protected species.

The very expensive work of one of the ‘top’ ecology firms, is being called into question and many of the surveys need re-doing to obtain accurate data. Please continue to object, even if you have already done so.