PROTESTORS against the controversial expansion of Pinewood studios are learning their lines ahead of the final scene in the long-running saga.
The world famous film studios appealed after South Bucks District Council refused its application to more than double the size of its Iver Heath site.
Residents have tirelessly campaigned against the expansion, which they say will destroy the Greenbelt and could be implemented elsewhere. But studio bosses insist the project is vital for the studios’ survival, promising over 3000 jobs and ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of film, TV and digital arts.
And protestors from Iver Heath are dusting off their placards for the final showdown when the appeal is heard at the studios from November 19.
Syvlie Lowe, chairman of the ‘Stop Project Pinewood group’, said: “It’s been a busy few weeks. There’s a legal process to follow and we have been doing a lot of work looking at the evidence and preparing the summary of evidence. “A lot of people think it’ll be like going into the lion’s den and that it was insensitive to hold it at the studios as it is supposed to be on neutral ground.
“But it won’t make a difference, as we know the inspector will be impartial and we know that.
“At the end of the day they have to prove they have exceptional circumstances, not the other way round, so it’s more up to them than it is us. “There’s absolutely no justification for doing what they want to do where they want to do it. For many of us that is still the crux of the matter and it will be down to them to prove it.” The £200million studio expansion plans include the erection of new stages, workshops, offices and streetscapes.
At the application hearing in May, planning committee members voted six to four against allowing the proposal to go ahead. It was the second time Pinewood lost out on expansion plans, with the original ‘Project Pinewood’, which included a housing estate, refused by councillors in 2009 and upheld on appeal last year.
The studios have recently secured the new Star Wars movie to be made at its famous site, with Ridley Scott’s latest epic currently in production and the new James Bond film set for filming next year.
But Studio bosses claim they are having to turn start directors and blockbuster movies away as the capacity of the site is becoming increasingly stretched. And with directors, politicians and industry figures voicing their support for the expansion, Pinewood hopes its business case will win favour with the secretary of state’s planning inspector during the appeal.
Ivan Dunleavy, Pinewood Shepperton plc Chief Executive said: “The need for Pinewood’s expansion is more pressing now than it has ever been and the Pinewood Board remains committed to the Pinewood Studios Development Framework.
“In relation to this scheme the government has clarified its policy support for the screen based industries. “The proposals have received overwhelming support from leading global figures and companies in the creative industries, business groups, national and local businesses and members of the local community.
The inquiry begins at Pinewood Studios on November 19, with the publically held hearing scheduled to last 16 days.