One of Scotland’s biggest landowners is pursuing plans for a world-class film and TV studio complex just outside Edinburgh.
Nine sound stages would be created at a 48-acre site in Midlothian on land currently owned by the Duke of Buccleuch’s property empire.
Buccleuch Estates has joined forces with developers behind a previous studio scheme thwarted in the wake of a bitter legal battle with a farmer to draw up plans for the site at Salter’s Gate, near Dalkeith.
Their deal has emerged just weeks after it emerged that an empty warehouse in Leith Docks had been earmarked by the Scottish Government and its screen agency for a studio development.
A search is underway for a developer and operator for the Leith project, which would see five sound stages created inside the building. The 160,000 sq ft building was used for several months as a production base for blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War in 2017.
The Midlothian project is being pursued for a site around four miles away from the one first proposed for the Pentland Studios project in 2014. Buccleuch Estates approached PSL Land in the autumn after a court found in favour of farmer Jim Telfer whose family had occupied the land since 1915.
The ruling, revealed in October, was a huge blow to hopes that Scotland would finally boast a permanent purpose-built studio facility. The only major studio facility in Scotland, in Cumbernauld is used for the filming of Outlander.
However it emerged in December that new agency Screen Scotland is looking for commercial partners to turn the former Pelamis wave turbine plant in Leith into a permanent studio facility.
An agreement on the new Midlothian site was struck since then between PSL Land and Buccleuch Property, which represents the commercial property interests of Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch, who has around 220,000 acres across Scotland.
As well as around 200,000 sq ft of studio space, the new site at Salter’s Gate would feature around 120,000 sq ft of workshop space. Talks are also ongoing with Edinburgh Napier University about establishing a film academy on the site.
PSL Land has lodged initial plans with Midlothian Council, and hopes to begin work on site within months to have the studio up and running by the end of next year or early in 2020.
Buccleuch Property commercial property director Nick Waugh said: “We recognise the importance of this ambitious project. We’re delighted to play a role in helping deliver a world-class film studio that will inevitably transform the Scottish creative industry and our reputation as a filming location across the globe.”
Nick Smith, an industry consultant to PSL Land, said: “You look at what’s happening in the Bristol and South Wales corridor or Belfast, and the one area of the UK that is missing out by a country mile and has been for years is Scotland.”
Isabel Davis, executive director of Screen Scotland, said: “It’s very encouraging PSL is taking forward its studio proposal to Salter’s Gate. With record levels of film and TV production spend in Scotland, and the global content market remaining buoyant, it’s vital we have the studio capacity to support future growth. The proposed development at Salter’s Gate will complement other existing facilities servicing the industry to provide world-class film and TV facilities to both the Scottish industry and large scale international productions.”
Midlothian council leader Derek Milligan said: “A film studio could be a major inward investment opportunity, bringing jobs and boosting the economy. The planning application process is at a very early stage, though, so we look forward to seeing more detailed plans in the coming months.”