Film studio dreams dashed by damning planning report

David and Nomi Neilson view the plans at an exhibition staged at Asda's Straiton branch. Picture: Ian Georgeson
David and Nomi Neilson view the plans at an exhibition staged at Asda's Straiton branch. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A BID to create the nation’s first film studio on the outskirts of Edinburgh has been dealt a huge blow after council officials said it should be thrown out.

Planners have delivered a damning verdict on the controversial Pentland Studios project – the latest in a series of attempts to get such a facility off the ground in Scotland.

The proposed buildings are three times as high as the nearby Asda store”

IAN JOHNSON

They say the scheme proposed for Straiton is unsuitable for greenbelt land, would caused unacceptable disruption to local residents and threaten the expansion of the Edinburgh Science Triangle development.

There are fears it will blight the landscape and ruin views from the nearby Pentland Hills.

Doubt has been cast on the claimed economic benefits from the Pentland Studios project while the lack of a commercial backer for the venture has been questioned.

A complex is seen as crucial to help Scotland compete for film and TV productions with Wales and Northern Ireland, where Doctor Who and Games of Thrones are filmed.

Promised facilities include six “sound stages” up to 70 feet tall, two backlots suitable for blockbuster productions, a 50,000sq ft creative industries hub and 50,000sq ft of workshops.

Up to 900 jobs have been predicted for the £150 million project earmarked for an 86-acre swathe of land close to the Straiton Retail Park, which has been billed as the UK’s third biggest film studio complex.

The Scottish Government will rule on the scheme after the consortium behind the project appealed on the grounds of non-determination by 
Midlothian Council. It has submitted a lengthy dossier to a reporter who will make recommendations to ministers.

The project team – led by former Ealing Studios director Jeremy Pelzer and former Warner Bros development manager Jim O’Donnell – previously pulled out of a bidding process for a publicly funded Scottish studio in frustration at the way it was being handled.

More than 3300 people have backed a petition calling for the scheme to be approved. But the council received just 19 letters of support for the project, compared to 49 objections.

Its report, by head of economy Ian Johnson, states: “The proposed scale of development cannot be achieved on this site without significant landscape visual impact especially considering the prominent location of the application site at the open rolling landscape providing the setting for the Pentland Hills and the greenbelt land associated with Edinburgh.

“The proposed buildings are approximately three times as high as the nearby Asda store and with only limited scope for any worthwhile mitigation.

“They are of a scale which does not sit well in the landscape or relate to surrounding developments. A large-scale development such as this will impact in a highly negative manner on the integrity of the Pentland Hills Regional Park as well as the entrance to and setting of Edinburgh.”

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk