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Norbury warns of “creaking infrastructure” as Pinewood looks to double capacity

Industry execs discuss UK infrastructure at London event as Pinewood finalises new planning application.

“UK infrastructure is creaking both in terms of skills and in terms of facilities,” warned Creative England chief executive Caroline Norbury last night at the launch event for a new report into the UK’s creative economies.

The report, commissioned by Pinewood Studios and produced by PwC with the support of Creative England, highlights the UK’s need for infrastructure growth to meet the growing demand for production space in the UK.

“The key is to ‘grow our own’”, said Norbury. “To do this, we need to address issues of infrastructure building on existing centres of excellence, like Pinewood, Elstree and Leavesden, whilst looking to strengthen existing creative businesses and clusters north of Watford. We need to up-our-game in terms of digital infrastructure too - UK businesses cannot compete without major improvements to broadband.”

Culture change

Norbury also stressed the need for a cultural change around investment in creative industries

“We need to change the culture around investing in the creative sectors, whilst simultaneously finding new avenues to provide affordable access to finance,” she said.

“We must retain our IP and learn to build big creative businesses founded on our big creative ideas. We need to remember that SMEs are the key drivers for future economic growth. Finally we need to remember that innovation is the key to remaining competitive, both structurally within businesses – and with the products and services we produce.”

Pinewood chief executive, Ivan Dunleavy agreed with Norbury: “This market analysis from PwC helps demonstrate that the UK needs to increase capacity if it is to capitalise on the predicted growth on offer in the screen based industries. Inward investment continues to flow into the UK to take advantage of our facilities, talent, skills and technology but we need to grow to help accommodate it.”

Spending surge

Spend on inward investment films continues to surge with more than £1bn spent on UK-US films (using UK facilities, services and crew) in 2011, up from £975m in 2010 and £836m in 2009.

The number of inward investment films also increased year-on-year from 29 in 2010 to 32 in 2011.

Dunleavy confirmed that Pinewood is in the process of submitting a new planning application for more studio and administrative space next to its existing studios in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire.

“Double the capacity”

Last year, Pinewood had a major application, including 420 homes in replica foreign cities, denied by the local authority.

A spokesman for Pinewood confirmed to Screen that the new application is to “double the capacity” of the venue but will not include homes. The new site will incorporate studio space, workshops, offices and recognisable “streetscapes.” The expansion will be into Pinewood-owned greenbelt land.

This time around the studio has undertaken a comprehensive public consultation with 27 events between June and November 2012. The studio said it has incorporated public suggestions into its application after many locals reacted angrily to the previous application.

The spokesman said Pinewood, which currently consists of 17 stages, believes it has a “strong case” this time around.

UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries Ed Vaizey also spoke at the event, which was attended by industry, city executives and politicians, including former BBC chairman Michael Grade.

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