News

Strategic Sites Committee REFUSES film studio application

Save Marlow’s Green Belt is delighted with the decision to refuse the Marlow Film Studio planning application. There can now be no doubt that the harm caused by this development would far outweigh its benefits. We would like to thank all those people who have supported our campaign.

The applicant claims that the studio would benefit the film industry and help young people. We disagree. Over the last three years the amount of studio space has doubled and there is now more than enough to meet demand. And local young people are already well served by over ten studios that are within a 30 minutes’ drive of Marlow. Including Pinewood and a brand new one just up the road in Wycombe.

The planning committee clearly agrees that the lack of certainty over the benefits and the absolute certainty of the harm means that Marlow is the wrong place for a development of this type. It would create traffic chaos, destroy the environment and cause huge damage to the local community.

The recent parish poll, in which 85% of voters said “No” to the studio, shows that the vast majority of the community also agree with us. This is despite the applicant spending millions trying to convince them otherwise.

We hope that Dido Property Limited now recognises that the studio isn’t needed, it isn’t wanted and it can never be justified. We recommend that they don’t throw good money after bad by going to appeal and that they draw a line under this sorry episode.

SMG will continue its campaign to protect the local greenbelt from inappropriate development so that its benefits are secured for future generations.

Planning Officer’s Report Recommends REFUSAL

Save Marlow’s Green Belt is delighted that the Planning Officer has recommended that the application should be refused. His report is absolutely clear that the many significant harms caused by the development would significantly outweigh its vague and insubstantial benefits. It won’t generate growth, it won’t create 2,000 jobs, it won’t provide meaningful training and it
won’t benefit Buckinghamshire. But it will create traffic chaos, it will ruin the landscape, it will destroy the environment and it will harm the community. It has no merit whatsoever.

“The proposal will lead to very substantial harm to the Green Belt adversely affecting the setting of the Chilterns AONB and landscape character of the area. The impact on the highway network and the environment is substantially negative. Overall, notwithstanding the benefits of the scheme taken together, it is considered that the benefits do not “clearly outweigh” the Green Belt and other harm. The applicant has not demonstrated ’very special circumstances’ to justify inappropriate development in the Green Belt”

John Fannon, Buckinghamshire Council Planning Officer Report 21/5/24

We are certain that those 85% of Marlovians who voted against this development in a recent Parish Poll will join us in urging the council’s Strategic Sites Committee to follow the Officer’s recommendation and decide against it on the 30th May.

Our response to Robert Laycock’s Facebook posts

You may have seen a post about Marlow Film Studios from their CEO, Robert Laycock. Here is our response.

Mr Laycock’s “filmmaking career” doesn’t seem to amount to much. His IMDb entry indicates he did some editing work on a few films between 1995 and 1999. His LinkedIn profile says he is a Producer at “Fight & Flight” – a company that has liabilities of £41k and was subject to a compulsory strike of order in 2023. Not quite the background we would expect from someone who wants to build and run a film studio and, to be honest, it doesn’t give us any confidence that he knows much about the film industry at all.

However, he’s right that the UK has a world-class TV & film business. But the sad truth is that it just isn’t growing anymore. The maturation of the streaming industry means that global investment is now forecast to be flat. And the UK’s share of that investment has decreased by 40% with unemployment rates now standing at over 60%.

This isn’t due to a lack of studios, or Covid or the actors strike – it’s because the streaming boom has ended and production activity has returned to normal levels. The boom led to a rapid expansion in the number of UK studios and there are now more than enough of them. In fact, many are now operating at half capacity, expansion plans have
been cancelled and some have actually gone bust. Mr Laycock has missed the boat and if the studio is ever built then it will make a bad situation much worse.

Mr Laycock promises 2,000 new jobs at the studio. Sounds impressive, but there’s no explanation of where these numbers came from. Studios themselves only employ a handful of people (Pinewood employs less than 40, Shinfield less than 10). Almost all the jobs are actually provided by the production companies that rent out the studio space. So the number of jobs is clearly outside Mr Laycock’s control – his estimates are worthless.

Anyway, almost all the jobs at film studios (including non-production work like catering, security and trades) are taken by freelancers who travel wherever the work is. If you’re not already in the TV & film business, then your chances of getting a job there are almost zero.

And with the sky-high unemployment levels, reduced investment and a surplus of studio space, there isn’t any possibility of Marlow Films Studio creating additional employment in the industry. All it can do is to provide an alternative workplace for existing freelancers, most of whom live in West London.

Nothing can be done to prevent the harm caused by the 2,000 of them commuting to and from the studio every day. And the transport proposals offer nothing else of any value. Consequently, Bucks Highways and National Highways have strongly criticised the proposals and both have recommended that the application should be turned down by the planning committee.

That’s because their analysis makes it clear that Marlow Film Studios will lead to:

  • Severe congestion over a wide area
  • Safety issues, particularly on the Westhorpe roundabout
  • Parking on residential streets by film workers, taxi drivers and lorries.

These same problems are experienced on a daily basis by the residents of Iver, who live in the shadow of Pinewood Studios.

Training for local residents? The truth is that they committed to a total of 60 training places a year, with only a fraction of them dedicated to local people. And the budget for this training is just £147 per person per month – check out their planning applications, it’s all there in black and white.

And, by the way, if your kids want to work in the film industry then there are already 15 studios within half an hour’s drive – including Pinewood!

The proposed site was indeed a former landfill site, but it’s not derelict – it’s an area that supports a valuable ecosystem. And, because it’s Greenbelt land, its openness helps to protect the character of Marlow and surrounding villages. A huge, ugly studio that looms over the town and is visible for miles around would totally destroy that character. We want Bucks Council to fulfil their promises and turn the entire area into a proper country park where families can enjoy recreation in nature.

Make no mistake, the only people that could possibly benefit from Marlow Film Studios are Mr Laycock and his colleagues. For the rest of us, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

The facts don’t lie – Vote NO on Thursday.

Marlow Parish Poll – vote *NO* on 9th May

A Marlow Parish Poll is being organised, following the most recent Marlow Parish Meeting on 8th April. There are two questions being posed to the electorate of Marlow:

  1. Do you wish Marlow Film Studios to be built?
  2. Do you want development in the greenbelt on the scale proposed by the Marlow Film Studio?

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt was not involved in the instigation of this poll, however we urge our supporters to vote “NO” to both questions – for obvious reasons.

As the notice linked above states, the result of the poll is non-binding, but will be hugely symbolic. Let’s show everyone that Marlow does not want a giant, unnecessary film studio on its doorstep, in its Greenbelt.

How can you vote?

Head to a polling station on Thursday 9th May between 4 PM and 9 PM. Which one depends on your electoral number – more information can be found on the notice. You can find your electoral number on your polling card for the PCC elections on 2nd May or alternatively contact Electoral Services on elections@buckinghamshire.gov.uk.

Spread the word!

Please spread the word about the poll and ensure that your neighbours, friends & family all go & vote “NO” on both of the questions.

You can add a reminder to your calendar with the button below:

Yes, time to object *again*

As you might be aware, Dido Property Ltd have submitted new documents (101 in total), press releases and a glossy brochure to amend their planning application.

Save Marlow’s Greenbelt has reviewed the documents and, unsurprisingly, our view on the proposals remain unchanged. However, the amendments represent a major revision to their original planning application and therefore require a new round of public consultation. Consequently, when the strategic sites committee reconvenes, we believe it should reconsider the entire application, not just those aspects that caused the deferment back in October, and it should allow public speaking.

The UK film production industry is in structural decline as evidenced by the 43% reduction in inward investment last year. In light of this, and the new material submitted by the applicant, we urge the Planning Officer to commission a new economic report that assesses the requirement for a new studio in Marlow and provides an independent analysis of its claimed economic benefits. We have laid this out in more detail in our latest objection to the plans.

Now, it is your turn: please object again.

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…