Bray Film Studio’s decision “won’t make everyone happy” in Maidenhead
A film studio in Berkshire can go ahead and expand once the council approves the plans.
Bray Film Studios has been allowed to expand its business despite concerns about potential damage to the surrounding countryside.
But after the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is informed by planning officers that the creation of new jobs will outweigh the potential damage to the green belt, the local authority will allow construction to begin.
Read more: Windsor, Maidenhead and Eton Christmas lights coming on and the celebrities who will be in attendance
The historic film and television studio will see nine new sound stages, four workshops, a rehearsal building, offices and accommodation as well as 750 parking spaces – 20% of which are EV charging points – 174 spaces for bicycles, heavy goods vehicle parking and addition of a roundabout to access and from the A308.
However, this will require the studio, located in Down Place, Water Oakley, to expand into the Greenbelt and demolish three homes on Water Oakley Lane, the vacant Phoenix Gymnasium and the Water Oakley Farm.
But a majority of Maidenhead Development Management Group advisers and planning officers believed the economic benefits far outweighed that impact, as the plans will create nearly 1,500 full-time studio jobs and 1,463 jobs. “Indirect”, 80% of which are in Berkshire.
It was stated at the expert group meeting on Monday 8 November that the expansion would inject nearly £ 139million a year into the UK economy.
Bray Film Studios was purchased by Hammer Film Productions in the 1950s and had many of their classic horror films, such as The Curse of Frankenstein, until 1970. In recent years, Elton John’s biopic film Rocketman and the BBC drama Dracula were shot in the studio.
Things were looking bleak for Bray Studios and in 2012, the former owner obtained a building permit to demolish the sound stages and redevelop them into housing.
But the demand for filming then “exploded” when the current owners decided to invest heavily in improving the studios and upgrading the site as a whole. A provisional planning permit, for a period of two years, was granted in 2020 to use the land for outdoor filming.
Demand Officer Oliver Bell said “aging” buildings “fail” to support their long-term aspirations by attracting “high-level, large-scale productions.”
He also said that a pre-bid consultation was conducted in which 60 of the 63 responses received were in favor of expansion.
Windsor Senior Member Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con: Eton & Castle) said: “This is also a huge tourism opportunity to make the Royal Borough the place of choice for people who want to see where their movies are being made.
“The benefits for our businesses such as hotels, taxis, restaurants, convenience stores. We have a lot of local residents living here because of the filming and adding to our wonderful community. “
Meanwhile, Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF: Oldfield), who proposed approval of the plans, said the economic benefits are “badly needed” in a post-Covid borough.
But traffic jams on the “overcrowded” A308, and light and noise nuisance turned out to be a concern for neighbors and parish councilors.
Bray Parish Cllr Nicola Marsh, who spoke of her traffic fears, said: “This will be exacerbated by the new Aldi supermarket on Dedworth Road, the impending gravel mining and vehicle movements behind the old pub in Queens Head. “
Planning committee chairman Cllr Phil Haseler (Con: Cox Green) said there was no technical evidence that the approved plans would have a serious impact on highways. Meanwhile, Bell added that there is a noise management plan to alleviate noise concerns.
Seven councilors voted for approval subject to a long list of conditions. Lib Dem Cllrs Joshua Reynolds and Mandy Brar voted against.
Cllr Haseler said: “I know not everyone will be happy with this result, but I believe the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead will benefit greatly from this app, and Bray Film Studios will become iconic across the country. “
Sign up for our newsletter and get BerkshireLive’s best stories straight to your inbox