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Marlow Studio Project - Proposal to build on 90 acres of Green Belt land
at Little Marlow Lakes Country Park.
For the latest information visit:
As a guide, this is almost 2 times the size of Globe Park ( 53 acres ).
The planning application reference is: 22/06443/FULEA
The planning application can be viewed at:
status December 2023
Planning status notes from Richard Parker published in the New Year 2024 (published Dec 2023) members newsletter:
Bucks Council's Strategic Sites Committee on 23rd October deferred its decision on the Film Studios application. This was following a recommendation by Marlow County Councillor, Neil Marshall, as he was concerned whether sufficient information on the traffic impact had been obtained. In their written advice to the councillors, the County's planning officers had recommended rejection of the application.
There were objections from Marlow County Councillors, Carol Heap and Alex Collingwood, Little Marlow Parish Council, Cookham Parish Council, Save Marlow's Green Belt and our local MP. Marlow Town Council (MTC) were not represented. However an unofficial press release by a Town councillor given to the national press stated that MTC were in favour of the development. This gave rise to a parish meeting to hear Marlow residents; whose views were unanimously against the development. MTC just took note.
The objectors clearly stated the reasons for refusal - major traffic congestion, no "very special circumstances" to overturn the Green Belt designation of the site, visual impact due to the size and scale of development, pollution, environmental damage, amongst others. All of these were backed up with independent evidence. Unfortunately each speaker was given only three minutes which was insufficient to cover complex issues such as traffic impact.
The tactic used by Dido, the applicant, was to take questions supported by their "experts". The councillors were not very demanding in their questioning.
It is expected that National Highways will be issuing a further response to the applicant's proposals for traffic management. It is hard to see what mitigations can be put in place to stop at least an extra 4,000 traffic movements per day through Westhorpe roundabout which would cause major congestion.
status April 2023
Planning status notes from Richard Parker published in the April 2023 members newsletter:
The proposed Marlow Studio Project is still with the planners. There are significant challenges for the developers to overcome as National Highways and the Environment Agency have not approved or supported the application citing significant issues. The developers are still in negotiation with the planners and Agencies. The developers are using social media to encourage support for the application. Of the positive responses less than a quarter come from Marlow residents.
The Highways agency separately has decided not to proceed with the improvements at Westhorpe roundabout. Even with these improvements the impact on traffic flows would be exceptionally significant.
The Environment Agency feels that more exploration of the contents of the earlier dumping pits is needed because studio construction could release contamination into the stratum of mobile ground water and so into the river.
In addition, Bucks Council commissioned a report from property financial consultants, Lambert Smith Hampton, who concluded that the economic case was weak and did not support the Very Special circumstances requirements to override Green Belt planning rules.
The Society has agreed to work with other interested groups in preparing objections and comments on the application which will now be considered by Buckinghamshire Council Strategic Planning Committee.
The published timetable for the original application is shown below:
( Viewing this in April 2023, just one date is different - Neighbour Consultation Expiry Date shows as Mon 10 Apr 2023 )
status 15 Nov 22:
The table below gives an overview of the submission of documents - Objection Comment, Support Comment etc. and the timeline:
Observations based on sampling:
Objection Comments, Support Comments, General Comments are submitted by individuals ( including on behalf of groups ) using the public access process to the planning application.
Some of the earlier Background papers were requests to extend the consultation period. The later Background papers have been submitted by the developers and are as per this example of 15-Nov-22 ( persons address removed ):
status 10 Aug 22: The planning application was submitted to Buckinghamshire Council and was available to view for only a month before the closing date for comments of 23 July 22. Given the application has over 400 pages, a number of the first comments submitted were of course requesting that this date be extended, but this date is still showing as the official close. However, Comments are still being submitted and published to date.
status Feb 22:
This statement concluded with the following:
" The Exec committee has consulted with Members, who have raised these points. The Society's leadership is persuaded that the proposed development would not benefit Marlow and the nearby parishes. "
This is for background interest - please see the later 22 Jul 2022 submitted objection to the planning application ( higher up this page ).
status Autumn 2021:
The promotional material for the project is available at www.marlow.film. This describes the land in terms of the historic use of part of it, quarrying and then landfill. It is important to clarify that this land is a long established nature habitat.
A resident of Westhorpe Park said:
"I have seen more wildlife since I have lived here than in the 30 years before"
Westhorpe Park will be surrounded by the proposed development.
Some other observations and views can be found at:
The promotional material assesses that the development will create "5000 new jobs...". Some questions this may raise are: Would it's location have more benefit in an area with high unemployment? Maybe where previous industry has left brownfield sites that would benefit from such development. In the proposed location, what impact will the increased traffic have in an area already challenged with traffic congestion and poor air quailty?
Thank you to members who have sent the society their views on the proposal to date.
The following is Martin Blunkell's overview, published in the Marlow Society Autumn 2021 newsletter:
Marlow Studio Project
In the local press and in exhibitions the property company Dido is extolling the advantages of building a film studio on green belt land to the east of the A404 Marlow bypass and opposite the garden centre.
The Society's planning group takes an interest in all planning applications as well as the County's strategic plans and special planning guidance. We were heavily involved in the drafting of the Wycombe District Local Plan 2019. This provides the planning policy framework for day to day planning decisions until 2033 to help deliver sustainable development and ensure that our communities are sustainable in environmental, economic and social terms.
The Local plan gives Marlow a high degree of protection by clearly recognising much of the surrounding land as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and/or green belt. It notes that any future development in these areas would have to show 'very special circumstances' in justification. The stated policy of our County Council is to 'Cherish the Chilterns'.
Dido has engaged the company Soundings to make a creative consultation with Marlovians and to seek their opinions on the Dido proposals. This will eventually demonstrate local engagement in the preparation of a planning application.
We are well informed on the past history of the proposed site and the reasons it was designated as part of the Little Marlow Lakes Country Park. We have supported the role of this land in preventing urban sprawl from embracing Little Marlow and Well End. We recognise the contribution the whole area makes to ecological diversity in offsetting the density of the housing and commercial development to the south east of Marlow.
Change is inevitable. The Local Plan designates land for new housing and industrial development, a government requirement. Employment is required to match new housing development. In our county this is focussed on expansion in Princes Risborough and the adjacent Vale of Aylesbury, not in Marlow.
Major plus points postulated by Dido include the creation of 5000 jobs and the enlargement of the national film industry capability. Five thousand people is one third of the population of Marlow. We understand that most employees in the industry are self employed and commute daily to site - as we learnt during the Star Wars filming at Little Marlow. They commuted in their cars; not an acceptable long term policy. We are yet to discern the commercial and social benefit such a scheme would bring to Marlow and our local area. Dido’s suggestions of employment and training opportunities have so far been vague and lacking in substance.
MFS land and Globe Park, indicative - image: Open Street Map
Envisage the Globe Park and Thames Industrial Park in Marlow. This covers approximately 53 acres. The studio plan covers 90 acres. We have asked which alternative sites have been surveyed. The answer is none. DIDO owns this land and clearly wishes to gain the maximum benefit from it. In the longer term there would be no way of preventing a multinational company buying the studio and seeking further expansion.
The proponents originally anticipated a planning application being submitted in February/March 2022. The Society will surely comment comprehensively on it. We anticipate the arguments in favour will focus on national economic gain and employment. The counter argument will inevitably focus on the sustaining of the green belt. Ultimately it will be a Secretary of State decision.