UNIQUE plans for a £200m expansion at Pinewood Studios were thrown out by councillors after a mass demonstration this afternoon.
More than 100 protesters were at the South Bucks District Council building as the planning committee discussed the proposal to build live-in film sets with 1,400 new homes on Green Belt land in Iver Heath.
A marquee was set up outside the Capswood building in Denham for protesters to watch the proceedings and a loud cheer could be heard as councillors voted unanimously to reject the plan.
Councillors were shown artist's impressions of the live-in sets, which would include a mock-Parisian square and Venice canal.
But Cllr Mike Thomson accused Pinewood of showing a “lack of respect and recognition” to the Green Belt, while Cllr Deirdre Holloway said the studios had tried to sprinkle star dust in councillors eyes.
She said: “Behind these sets you just have a housing estate - to build so many houses in the Green Belt is every developers dream.”
Committee chairman Jacquetta Lowen-Cooper summed up members views saying the decision should not be seen as 'anti-Pinewood'.
She said: "We feel strongly about our Green Belt land and we don't want development on it.”
An industry insider, who asked not to be named, said Pinewood would appeal the decision.
The appeal would go before the Planning Inspectorate, an independent national body that rules on complex or controversial planning applications.
It could be judged at a public inquiry.
Cllr Julian Wilson, representing the residents of Iver Heath, warned Pinewood could sell the land to developers once planning permission is obtained.
He told the meeting: “This proposal by Pinewood Studios Ltd can only be a way to maximise the value of the Green Belt land they have bought.
“1,400 houses in this area will sell for, on my estimation, £420m – what a valuable outline planning permission to sell.”
Protester Mitchell Gear spoke for the 'Stop Pinewood' campaign and afterwards told the BFP: “This is only the first step but there was some very sensible and rational arguments put forward by councillors.
“Once all the homes have been built it will be a huge asset to sell – that is not in the public interest.”
Ivan Dunleavy, the chief executive of the studios parent company, Pinewood Shepperton PLC, told councillors that the benefits of skills, training, jobs, affordable homes and growth presented by the project gave it very special circumstances to develop on the Green Belt.
Group director for corporate affairs at Pinewood Andrew Smith said after the meeting: “This project is of national significance and of great benefit not only to our community and region but also to the UK and its creative industries. “We remain committed to the vision of this project and to developing and sustaining UK creative industries at Pinewood for the future. We will now review the details of South Bucks District Council’s decision”.
Protesters had arrived at Capswood from 3.30pm and though some squashed into the meeting, most watched the proceedings via a video link in a marquee outside. Patricia Selby-Lowndes lives on Fulmer Common Road, near the proposed site, and was delighted with the unanimous decision.
She said: “What a lot of tosh from Pinewood – how about 'Project Green Belt instead?” Her neighbour Jeff Sparrow said: “Now that's a result – this was just an excuse to build 1,400 houses which they can then sell off.”
Wendy Angell, 43, lives in Iver Heath and said the traffic is already terrible through the village: “Our pictures on the wall shake when big vans go through and this would just make things worse. “This is just a massive housing development and should be treated as one.”
Elly Angell, 70, said: “We can't get planning permission for an extension to our house because it's on protected land – why should Pinewood get to build over a thousand new homes?”