There is a storm brewing in Iver Heath, a peaceful suburb on the borders of West London. Enough intrigue to create a film.
The proposals to expand Pinewood Studios onto a 100-acre site in the Green Belt in Iver Heath have understandably generated substantial local opposition. The Buckinghamshire studios – nearly 75 years old – have produced hundreds of films, most famously, the James Bond franchise. Hollywood routinely uses the studios and this year they have hosted the final two Harry Potter films, a new version of Gulliver’s Travels and many lavish productions. Compare the Market are even filming their new CGI meerkat advert here (sorry folks, he’s not a real meerkat!).
Project Pinewood, as it is known, will consist of a new working and living community for the creative industry. Permanent lots will replicate European and American locations, including a Parisian square, a Venetian canal and Amsterdam, San Francisco, Berlin, Chicago and Brooklyn vistas. With 1,400 homes on the set, the project has been called a vibrant live-work “creative hub”. The problem is that locals in the South Buckingham District don’t agree.
Dominic Grieve, MP, says, “The proposals are entirely contrary to the local plan for South Bucks district and the national policy for the Green Belt.” The Group Director of Corporate Affairs, Andrew Smith – who has the Bond theme as his mobile ring tone (The Guardian) – has responded that such expansion will create up to 630 full-time jobs, increasing to 960 by 2022. Up to 550 additional jobs could also be created during the construction period.
The expansion is set to include a new Screen Crafts Academy, offering training in the skills required by screen industries, such as carpentry, and wig and model making. The Academy will be run by the National Film and Television School, in conjunction with Skillset.
Locals are not happy at all, believing that the entire proposal is a scam to build houses on precious Green Belt land. Ultimately, the government could be called in and a decision will have to be made.