Pinewood Studios Development Framework: Martin Kingston QC and James Corbet Burcher secure major planning permission to support the future of British film-making

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has granted planning permission for Pinewood Studios Development Framework (APP/N0410/A/13/2199037).

Pinewood Studios is the flagship of UK film production and an outstanding UK success story. It is ranked among the top 3 film studios worldwide, and an internationally recognised brand.

Over 1,500 films have been produced there, winning well over 100 Oscars and 100 BAFTAs. Pinewood is the established home for the production of the James Bond films, most recently Skyfall, and is currently accommodating the production of Star Wars VII.

The application was for development on the existing site and 46 hectares of Green Belt land comprising: “reconfiguration and expansion of facilities for screen based media, including film, television and video games and associated services and industries comprising demolition of existing outdated accommodation; erection of new stages, workshops, office accommodation” and wide-ranging other related development.

The permission effectively doubles the film-making capacity of the studios to allow up to four big-budget films to be filmed at any one time, whilst providing flexibility for other screen-based media including high-end television.

South Buckinghamshire District Council refused planning permission in May 2013 and the section 78 appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State.

A four-week inquiry was held before Planning Inspector Phillimore in November and December 2013.

Martin Kingston QC, leading James Corbet Burcher, acted for Pinewood Studios Ltd, instructed by Ian Ginbey and David Heales of Clyde and Co LLP and Turley Associates.

Inspector Phillimore recommended approval, concluding at IR687 that the harm to the Green Belt should be given “very serious weight” but at IR807: “Overall there is a very strong, credible economic case for the proposed expansion.”

In respect of the four components of the Very Special Circumstances case at IR842-847 “delivering sustainable economic growth through the appeal scheme to a world-leading business in a priority sector for the UK”; “the absence of a credible and viable alternative”; “the range and scale of the socio-economic and other benefits from the appeal scheme”; “the harm to the PSL business and the creative industries sector that would arise from a rejection of the appeal proposal” the Inspector observed at IR847: “each carries substantial weight, leading in turn to a substantial cumulative weight of considerations in favour of the proposal”.

He therefore concluded at IR850:

“In drawing the balance between the two national interests, I consider that, notwithstanding the degree of uncertainty, the potential harm to the Green Belt and the other identified harm is clearly outweighed by the other considerations. The characteristics of the particular site, the relationship to the existing Pinewood Studios, the individual circumstances of the film industry, and the details of the supporting economic case, taken together provide a distinguishing combination of features. Overall, very special circumstances exist to warrant allowing the inappropriate development, overriding the identified conflict with the development plan.”

The Secretary of State accepted those conclusions at DL41:

“The Government is firmly committed to both promoting sustainable economic growth and to protecting the Green Belt. In this case the Secretary of State has given very careful consideration to the clear conflict between these aims. In considering the balance between the two national interests the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusion at IR850…”

The appeal result is, just like any successful major appeal, the product of long-term planning, extensive preparation, and above all, strong teamwork.

PSL’s statement:

National media coverage:

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