Workspace Group, owners of UK indie studio Three Mills Island Studios, are insisting that the site will remain a studio facility despite ousting managers Edwin Shirley Productions (ESP) from four sound stages in a High Court dispute.

The commitment comes after an increasingly bitter dispute over lease contracts and rent payments that has been grinding on for more than a year.

Last month's High Court ruling marks the latest - and possibly last - twist in ESP's fight to stay on at the site which it first started to develop ten years ago when it was a derelict gin distillery. ESP chief Edwin Shirley said that he would be hard pressed to continue funding a legal challenge against the property concern.

Before the dispute kicked off, ESP had expected to ensure the future of the site as a film studio by securing a 15-year lease. But Workspace chief executive Harry Platt said that he still aims to develop the site as audio-visual centre combining film and TV facilities. Leavesden manager Daniel Dark, appointed last year as consultant to Three Mills, also stressed Workspace's commitment to expand the facility as a production centre for film as well as TV.

However, many film-makers fear that at the very least the supportive environment fostered by ESP could now be lost. ESP has secured letters of support from film-makers including director Mike Leigh and his regular producer Simon Channing-Williams, who shot parts of Topsy-Turvy at the east London site. Another letter of support came from producer Matthew Vaughn, who shot Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels at the facility.

"The understanding they gave to a young company in producing their first feature film was nothing short of remarkable," Vaughn said in the letter.