£250m Pentland Studios gets go-ahead from Scots Government

Artists impression of the Pentlands Studios complex. Picture: Contributed
Artists impression of the Pentlands Studios complex. Picture: Contributed
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Developers have been given the green light to create a vast film studio complex on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Ministers have overturned a recommendation from a government reporter that the £250 million scheme be thrown out due to the benefits that it will bring.

It is hoped work will begin on the project within months, with the first studio facilities planned to be operational by the end of next year.

More than 1,600 jobs are expected to be created by Pentland Studios project, which is earmarked for green-belt land at Straiton in Midlothian.

The creation of Scotland’s first purpose-built studio complex, which will include the building of six sound stages up to 70ft tall at the 106-acre site, is expected to provide a huge boost to the country’s ability to attract blockbuster film productions and high-end drama series.

A fully-fledged studio complex has long been seen as crucial to help Scotland compete for film and TV productions with Wales and Northern Ireland, where Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are filmed respectively.

Empty warehouses have had to be pressed into action for the likes of US fantasy drama Outlander, Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting and Avengers: Infinity War, which is currently filming in Edinburgh.

Other key parts of the Pentland Studios scheme include two Hollywood-style backlots, a 180-room hotel, a 50,000sq ft creative industries hub, 50,000 sq ft of workshop space and a film academy.

The complex has also been touted for Edinburgh Festival performances, a rehearsal space for national performing companies like Scottish Opera and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and as a new hub for computer games development.

• READ MORE: Scots university plans Pentlands film academy if studio gets go-ahead

However the project has been hugely controversial amid concerns it was being pursued for an unsuitable site.

Developers behind the project, which was first announced in August 2014, had appealed to the government to intervene in November 2015 on the grounds of non-determination by the local authority. Officials were opposed on the grounds that it went against local planning policies, would hamper other planned developments and would blight the environment.

The government reporter’s ruling revealed that 2700 people had backed a petition against the scheme, while around 3000 people had thrown their weight behind one supporting the project.

The government reporter recommended that “consideration must be given” to Midlothian Council’s fears that other projects could be “threatened” by the studio scheme.

The official reporter said the studio would also cause “significant adverse effects on the character of the local landscape and on the visual amenity of those who live, work and travel nearby.”

But the ruling from ministers said the anticipated benefits of the scheme outweighed any “potential consequences,” such as the loss of green belt, and the impact on neighbouring residents and the roads network.

A statement from developers Pentland Studios Limited said: “We’re very pleased with the decision by ministers to approve planning permission in principle for Scotland’s world-class film and TV studio complex, and we will be moving forward immediately with the application for planning permission in detail.

“Working together with Midlothian Council, we hope this next stage will be expedited accordingly, recovering the construction scheduling that will enable delivery of the key studio operation by late 2018.”

Ministers have approved the project just days after MSPs were told that a proper studio facility was “essential” for Scotland’s film and TV industry, amid claims that the lack of one left the country with its “ankles tied” when it was trying to compete for major productions.

• READ MORE: Pentland Studios developers reveal big-name backers

A spokesman for the Association of Film and Television Practitioners Scotland, which has led the lobbying for the studio, said: “We welcome this decision and look forward to Pentland Studios opening in 2018.

“In terms of film production, Scotland has been falling behind other parts of the UK as other places build infrastructure. This, along with the restructuring of our screen agency will reverse this trend, and we look forward to a prosperous screen sector in the forthcoming years.”

Rosie Ellison, manager of the Film Edinburgh commission, said: “This is wonderful news and absolutely the right decision.

“It’s a game-changer that promises to lead to the much needed purpose-built infrastructure that will attract more high-value, high-profile film and TV productions to Scotland, creating hundreds of jobs and opportunities and opening up south-east Scotland as a filming destination.

“We’ve shown we have the will, we may soon have the way.”