Published on

12 October 2023

Double-bill of approvals for film studio plans

Plans to continue developing two new film and television studios in Wokingham Borough have both been given the green light by the council

Artists impression of a modern film studio building with angled corners and sleek dark grey cladding

The creative industries in Wokingham Borough have been given another boost after plans for a film studio building at Winnersh Triangle Business Park were approved.

Winnersh Film Studios was awarded permission for the scheme, comprising a new sound stage on land off Eskdale Road, by the council's planning committee on Wednesday, 11 October. This would replace three smaller warehouses being used as storage for other film productions in the area.

The proposal is part of a bigger vision for a "creative quarter" on the business park. It would about create about 250 jobs on site on days when it is in use, plus up to 80 jobs daily during construction.

It will serve a growing national need for production space and, combined with the borough's Shinfield Studios project, is expected to create a "cluster effect" to make it a more desirable filming location.

Rolling out the red carpet for productions

The new building will have a smaller footprint than its predecessors and will provide a flexible space that can be divided with a retractable wall. It will have electric vehicle chargers on site and will be rated as "excellent" against global BREEAM sustainability standards.

It is in a sustainable location near Winnersh Triangle railway station and a short walk from stops served by the Lion X4 bus to Bracknell, Wokingham town and Reading.

There should be minimal impact on its surroundings as there are no homes nearby and there were no objections from residents or Winnersh Parish Council.

Any impact would be offset with new planting and landscaping that would exceed the council's requirements for new development to increase local biodiversity.

The council accepts it won't affect the wider road network as it will generate fewer vehicle movements than the existing warehouse use, with most journeys falling outside peak hours.

Two temporary sound stages are already up and running on the site. A separate planning application to make these permanent and build another was approved in November 2022.

As with this month’s latest permission, this is subject to the completion of a legal agreement which is expected to be finalised shortly.

Artist's impression showing a modern studio complex from above with Shinfield village in the background

The next step in a growing creative hub

Meanwhile, Shinfield Studios continues to move forward after the committee gave permission for new offices and other facilities to support its film and television operations, as well as a café.

The four-storey building, to be accessed off the Shinfield Eastern Relief Road, would include a two-screen cinema with a total of 100 seats that could be used by the community at weekends.

The studios at Thames Valley Science Park, south of the M4 in Shinfield parish, were awarded planning permission in 2021.

They are being brought forward in partnership with the University of Reading, with 13 of 18 planned sound stages already up and running and Disney confirmed among the first clients. A full opening is expected early next year.

Although the new building wasn’t part of the earlier planning consent, members agreed the employment and investment benefits were "special circumstances" and didn't undermine the aims of the council's planning policies.

As with the Winnersh facility, the building will have an "excellent" BREEAM sustainability rating and is not expected to have a significant detrimental impact on its surroundings.

Our borough in the limelight

Cllr Stephen Conway, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said: "The film and television industries will play an increasingly prominent role in our region's economy over years to come and we're pleased to be playing our part in enabling that.

"As part of our climate emergency commitments, we've pledged to do all we can towards making the borough carbon neutral by 2030 so it is pleasing that these schemes aim for a high standard of sustainability in their design and features.

"Wokingham Borough has enjoyed a starring role in a number of high-profile productions in recent years, and we hope to continue building on that - with all the economic and employment benefits this will bring."

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