News

Festive wishes from Save Marlow’s Greenbelt

The Trustees and volunteers of Save Marlow’s Greenbelt would like to wish everyone a great festive season. We also want to look back at what we achieved in 2023:

Thank you for your continued support. If you are feeling generous, please donate to our cause. Our fight to save our Greenbelt continues.

David, Oyku, Richard & Sam for Save Marlow’s Greenbelt.

PS: If you are planning a walk over the holiday period, why not visit the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park? And perhaps record some wildlife sightings in the process.

Object to a metal fence in Marlow’s Greenbelt

As reported in the Bucks Free Press, the new owner of the Wymers estate in Marlow Bottom wants to install a 2-meter-high metal fence around the entire site boundary. You can find the application on the planning portal under code 23/07816/CLP.

The applicant claims the fence to be required as the property “has been subject to antisocial behaviour in the past including an arson attack”. However, there appears to be no record of this on the official Thames Valley police map. The fence also goes right up to the boundary of properties on Highview Close, significantly affecting their view.

Therefore, we urge you to object today, on the basis that:

  • The metal fence is not in keeping with the need to preserve the rural character of a Green Belt area, as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework, specifically 138c and 138d:
    • “to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment”
    • “to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns”
  • This development lies within the Chilterns AONB and the introduction of a 2 m metal fence is not in line with the planning policies/guidance of the Chilterns Conservation Board and may set an unwanted precedent.
  • There is no evidence of antisocial behaviour, which is used as a motivation for its installation.
  • The metal fence would create a wildlife barrier, including for the ancient woodland, as declared in the application.
  • It is unclear to what extent the fence would encroach on the existing public rights of way at the boundary of the site. The required width of the paths needs to be maintained and access not impeded.

You can object by adding a comment to the planning portal or by emailing planning.wyc@buckinghamshire.gov.uk with the “Objection to 23/07816/CLP” in the subject line.

1,000 more cars parked in Marlow?

We wanted to share a testimony from a Marlow resident from the Parish Meeting, who works in the film industry, on the reality of car parking at film studios:

Given that the film studio application only has limited car parking space, you can expect at least 1,000 cars parked in Marlow, especially on the east side and Globe Business Park, which already struggles with parking issues.

Please continue to object to this unnecessary development on our Green Belt.

“Landmark” £450m North East film and TV studio submitted for planning

Crown Works Studio would be built on a 33 ha brownfield site in Sunderland. It would be £450 million ‘world-class’ facility for FulwellCain Studios, a joint venture between international entertainment company Fulwell 73 and private real-estate investment firm Cain International, in partnership with Sunderland City Council.

The developers managed to find investment and buy-in from an entertainment company for this project. That means the “necessity” of being near West London on a Green Belt site over twice that size, is surely affirming the weak foundations of the economic case for the Marlow film studio…

More flooding & sewage on your doorstep?

At the 10th November meeting of the Little Marlow Sewage Treatment Works Liaison Committee, the issue of the film studio planning application was brought up. While the minutes have yet to be published, the report from the Bucks Free Press was not pretty:

Andrew Scott, Thames Water’s Head of Waste Treatment for Thames Valley Region said he was not sure what the “absolute maximum” that the sewage works could take was, adding that someone at the water company “will be looking at that”.

He continued: “What I do know – from my operations perspective – is that unfortunately we tend to be playing catchup rather than getting ourselves ahead of the game.”

Not a particularly encouraging response for the Borlase rowers who will be out on the water nearby!

The recent rain also emphasised that this area is most useful as a flood plain rather than for warehouses. This video from 9th December shows the state of the A4155:

If you like your Thames clean and your houses not flooded, continue to object to the film studio application.

Marlow Town councillors met with film studio developers in Westminster

The data shared following the Freedom of Information request contains a lot of illuminating information.

For example, this email from February 2023:

The email shows black on white that councillors from Marlow Town Council met in private with Dido Property Limited at Westminster. Is it any wonder that Cllr Scott quoted liberally from their promotional material in his statement?

The behaviour of MTC in this case, as directed by Cllr Scott and Cllr Funnell, can be summarized as:

  • Meeting with Marlow Bottom Parish Council? – No
  • Meeting with Little Marlow Parish Council? – No
  • Meeting with Save Marlow’s Greenbelt? – No
  • Meeting with Marlow residents? – Only if we have to, but we won’t engage or listen to them.
  • Meeting with developers in the Westminster? Yes please!

Who are these councillors representing?

Marlow Town Council ignores residents views on film studio application

Remember the Parish Meeting on 17th October, when a vote was taken that Marlow Town Council should formally object to the planning application? The residents voted in favour of this statement. Cllr Scott then said “I have made a note of that”.

However, following a question from a resident at the Town Council meeting on 24th October 2023, it appears he has lost that note. The minutes state:

Q: Following on from the recent Parish Meeting, how have members aligned their comment regarding Marlow Film Studio planning application, to those of Marlow residents?
A: We have outlined how the data was assimilated.

Q: Is the Council going to act on the votes taken at the Parish Meeting?
A: No instruction has been received from Council therefore no.

Perhaps Cllr Scott needs to be reminded where his note went? You can reach him on rscott@marlow-tc.gov.uk.

Our new flyer

We have produced a new A4 flyer, which you will start seeing around Marlow and will be delivered to all households over the next coming weeks. It clearly and visually spells out the truths and implications of the film studio application. The purpose is to get more people engaged and properly informed. They also make lovely posters when folded out, if you have window space available.

You might also see them as larger boards around the town, mounted on a cargo bike. If you want to help with distributing flyers or talking to the public alongside the cargo bike, please contact us.

Minister backs veto for planned giant Buckinghamshire data centre to ‘protect green belt’

The principles of the Greenbelt won this month. Government minister Lee Rowley has upheld the rejection of plans to build England’s largest data centre in Iver, Buckinghamshire, between the M25 and an industrial estate, citing the need to protect the green belt.

Another article on the topic notes:

The availability of alternative, non Green Belt, sites was therefore a critical issue. The SoS unsurprisingly agreed that development would harm the Green Belt purposes of checking unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas and safeguarding the countryside from encroachment

(…)

(…) the Inspector and the SoS accepted the Council’s line that while there is locational demand, the ‘need’ (i.e. at a London and UK level) could be met on sites in Availability Zones with land outside the Green Belt. The developer had not carried out such a wide-ranging assessment of alternative sites.

Now that sounds familiar. Definitely a strong warning to Dido Property Limited for their film studio application. This ruling should give Buckinghamshire Council’s Strategic Sites Committee confidence that if they refuse the Marlow Film Studio application, that there is a good chance that the Secretary of State will uphold their decision.

UK film industry freelancers seeking other work

After our report a few months ago about the impact of actor strikes in the US, a new article in The Guardian features interviews with former UK film industry workers, who are needing to find jobs elsewhere.

Freelancers, the majority of people working in the industry, are hard hit through a combination of Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikers, drops in ad spending and a fall in commissions from domestic broadcasters and international streamers.

The Bectu union, which surveyed almost 4,000 UK TV & film freelancers, recently found three-quarters are out of work, 35% are struggling to pay household bills.

That’s hardly a sound economic case to invest in an oversized studio on Greenbelt land, is it? It ties in with the Knight Frank report. Buckinghamshire Council’s Strategic Sites Committee should do the right thing and follow its Planning Officers recommendation: refuse the film studio application.