The UK is a world leader in film and television production – and long has been. The talent pool behind and in front of the camera is large and experienced, perfect to fuel the growing demand for digital content from the pandemic backlog and the growth of online streaming.

Nick Paterson-Neild

Nick Paterson-Neild

This talent, combined with picturesque real-life locations always being close by, means there is continued demand for physical studio space.

This demand far exceeds supply, requiring 1.5m to 1.9m sq ft of new stage space by 2025 according to PwC and Lambert Smith Hampton. It is our role as planners to show the social and economic value these developments can bring: varied and sustainable jobs in everything from carpentry to coding, long-term support for skills training and apprenticeships, plus an immediate boost to the local economy.

Barton Willmore’s recent experience securing consent for Shinfield Studios, a new film studio at the Thames Valley Science Park (TVSP), has clearly demonstrated how vital it is to help people understanded the huge potential and breadth of opportunities that studios can provide.

Studios contribute considerably to innovation, enterprise and investment in the local area. Part of this is the constant innovation from the collaboration with other local business and occupiers, which push the development of new techniques across visual effects, image creation or event augmented reality – the cutting-edge of digital discovery.

On the flip side, studios support other skilled vocations that can lead into costume design or set building. Links with further or higher education are important, as has been the case at Shinfield and its relationship with the University of Reading. It is a mutually beneficial situation; studios give well-paid jobs, and the university and other further education colleges provide high-skilled workers with fresh ideas.

New investment in studios will be essential for the UK to maintain its leading role and grow to meet the huge global demand. But at the heart of this will be new creative clusters around studios that bring exciting and varied opportunities and economic growth. As planners, we need to make this case to local authorities and local residents so that they and the nation as a whole do not miss out on this chance for cinematic innovation.

Nick Paterson-Neild is a partner at Barton Willmore