It has been over two years since developers announced plans for the construction of a multi-million-pound film studio in a Buckinghamshire town, and still contention around the as-yet-undecided proposal continues to rage.

Developers Dido Properly Limited first unveiled plans for Marlow Film Studios way back in June 2021, and the intervening months have been chock-full of debates around the project’s environmental harm, impact on traffic networks, creation of new jobs and boost to the local economy, to name a few.

As we shut the door on 2023 – the year during which the proposal has come the closest to determination – we’re taking a look at what might be next for Marlow Film Studios over the coming twelve months.

Ahead of a meeting of Buckinghamshire Council’s Strategic Sites Committee back in October, it looked like a decision about the development was imminent, especially when, prior to the meeting, planning officers for the local authority recommended the application’s refusal on environmental grounds.

Councillors were torn between the protected Greenbelt status of the site near the A404 in Little Marlow, which also neighbours a Special Area of Conservation, and the commercial benefits the development could bring should the council capitalise on the UK’s growing prominence in global filmmaking.

Divided between these two considerations, members agreed to defer the vote until March 2024 to allow for further analysis of the development’s impact on the nearby Special Area of Conservation, its designation within a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace and potential highways issues.

The biggest date in the proposal’s diary for next year, then, is the re-evaluation of all contributing factors by the Strategic Sites Committee in the spring – but prior to that, expect more traffic and environmental assessments to appear in the planning portal as the council attempt to glean as comprehensive an understanding of Marlow Film Studios as possible. 

The meeting in March will likely follow a similar pattern to its predecessor in the autumn, with speakers from both sides making their impassioned cases before Buckinghamshire Council delivers its verdict.

READ MORE: 'Odd and unusual': Bucks Council criticises 'secret' vote on Marlow Film Studios

Whichever verdict is reached, those on either side of the debate might choose to appeal the council’s decision to the Planning Inspectorate, in which case, depending on whether it is upheld or not, the discourse will continue over subsequent months.

As to how likely spokespeople both for the film studio and against it are to pursue an appeal should next spring’s meeting not go as they would hope, a word from them in summation below.

Robert Laycock, CEO of Marlow Film Studios said: “We appreciate committee members giving us the opportunity to resolve the outstanding matters and deliver this very special and high-quality filmmaking facility to Buckinghamshire, which will deliver over 4000 jobs and £3.5 billion to the local economy in its first ten years.

“We strongly believe that Buckinghamshire deserves this opportunity to maintain and grow its position as a globally significant player in the UK’s creative economy which is backed by central government’s commitment to support a growth industry.

“We will continue to work diligently with officers to provide beneficial solutions for the area and deliver the world’s best studio.”

Richard Sherwin, chair of local environmental group Save Marlow’s Greenbelt said: “Regardless of the conclusions reached by Highways and Natural England, the fact that the planning officer found the applicant had failed to demonstrate that the economic benefits outweighed the harm means the application should still be refused.

“We continue to inform and keep Marlovians up to date with our campaign and have recently distributed more than 6000 leaflets to every home in Marlow. People have been shocked to realise the scale of the studio, the effect on the environment, the lack of opportunities and the traffic chaos would the project go ahead.

“We await the conclusion of the Strategic Sites Committee meeting but understand that whatever the conclusion at this level, the campaign to protect this and other greenbelt sites around our beautiful town will continue.”