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Plans for Scottish Film and TV Studio Move Ahead

Variety logo Variety 4/4/2017 Robert Mitchell
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Scotland looks set to get its first purpose-built film and television studio after Scottish government ministers finally approved, in principle, long-gestating plans for a 90.5-acre site on the edge of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. The decision could see the key parts of the new facility up and running by the end of 2018.

The approval to proceed with plans for PSL Land Ltd.’s Pentland Studios project, which has a budget of £250 million ($311 million), came late Monday after Scottish ministers rejected a previous government report which had suggested the project be denied permission. The minister said they were “minded to grant planning permission in principle for a mixed-use development comprising: film and television studio including backlot complex; hotel; film school and student accommodation; studio tour building” and other key structures.

PSL said in a statement following the decision that it would immediately move forward with its plans and hoped to be able to have key studio operations up and running by the end of next year.

“This is a true game-changer for the Edinburgh region’s appeal as a filming destination,” said Rosie Ellison, film manager at Film Edinburgh. “The current filming of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in Edinburgh clearly demonstrates the region has the locations, the processes and can-do attitude to deliver successful productions of every scale, but a permanent film studio has long been the missing piece.”

The studio has been long in the planning. PSL looked at 28 potential sites for the project before choosing Old Pentland Farm, a 106-acre site near Straiton, Midlothian, just five miles south of Edinburgh. Pre-application discussions with Midlothian Council began in 2013, and the original planning application was submitted in May 2015.

The plan calls for the studio facilities to include a 30-acre studio with six sound stages, an external water “paddock” stage and two backlots, measuring 6.45 acres and 20.1 acres respectively. The ambitious project would also see the studio house workshops and production offices for both visiting productions and permanent tenants; a data center, which would provide highly secure storage and transfer options; an energy center, with favorable rates for productions; a hotel and a studio tour building for visitor attractions; and a film academy with student accommodation.

PSL Land Ltd. said it was “very pleased” with the ministers’ decision and that it anticipated nailing down a timeline with the Midlothian Council in the next few weeks for work on the studio, academy and energy center.

“As we saw with last year’s filming of ‘T2 Trainspotting,; it is when productions base themselves in Edinburgh that the city really benefits in terms of economic impact,” Ellison said. “That we are one step closer to having the facilities and infrastructure in place is incredibly good news for the region, [for] creating hundreds of jobs and attracting more high value film and TV productions to Scotland.”

Construction costs for the studio are planned at £200 million ($249 million) with an additional £20 million ($25 million) estimated for furniture, fixtures and other equipment. The overall investment budget, including fees, site purchase and other costs, is £250 million ($311 million). The project is fully privately financed, with no state aid.

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