U.K.'s Pinewood blueprints future

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LONDON -- Studio facilities company Pinewood Shepperton, home of James Bond and Harry Potter, unveiled ambitious expansion plans for its famous Pinewood site Thursday.

The studio site on the outskirts of London, which includes the 007 stage, revealed plans to expand onto surrounding land and build permanent working sets of streetscapes and zones replicating locations across the U.K., Europe and the U.S.

Planned zones will include an amphitheater, a complete castle, a Venetian canal, an Italian lakeside and street scenes from London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles, the studio said.

As a key part of the design, Project Pinewood also will be a residential development, with the proposed creative community -- expected to contain up to 2,250 homes -- being integrated with the film locations.

But all the plans for expansion are subject to the great British bugbear: planning permission.

Pinewood Studios aims to expand on land adjacent to the existing Pinewood site under the banner "Project Pinewood" to create what it calls "the world's first purpose-built film and television live-work community and ultimately a cluster for the wider creative industries."

The studio bigwigs have already embarked on a charm offensive to bolster planning permission greenlights by saying the plans "combine the vocational requirements of the national and international film and television industries with the U.K. Government's demand for sustainable communities."

Pinewood Shepperton chief executive Ivan Dunleavy described the plans as being "of national importance," while drawing on the sites existing 70-year heritage of film and television making.

"Although still in its early stages and subject to planning approvals, the project has the potential to create significant value, while minimizing risks to our shareholders," Dunleavy said in a statement to the market.

The funding for the plans will be mapped out if and when planning permission is granted, Dunleavy said.

"The decision to proceed with the project will, in part, be dependent on the company's ability to gain planning permission for the development, which is expected to take some time given that the proposed site is currently green belt land," the company noted.

For a flyover tour of the expansion plans, visit www.projectpinewood.com.
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