04:00PM, Wednesday 09 June 2021
Bray Film Studios has begun consulting on a significant proposed expansion incorporating Water Oakley Farm on greenbelt land.
An approach to film a major new TV series at the studios meant new sound stages and workshops were needed and temporary planning permission was granted by the Royal Borough in 2020.
Due to a lack of demand, the studios fell into decline at the turn of the century and previous owners obtained planning permission to demolish all the sound stages and replace them with a residential development scheme.
Since then, demand for filming space has ‘soared’ and the current owners responded by investing significantly in the site and reviving the redundant studios to enable a return to filming in 2017.
Scenes for the BBC’s Bodyguard and Dracula along with the Oscar-winning Elton John biopic Rocketman were all filmed at Bray in the old studio buildings.
The studios are now consulting the public on plans to add five new sound stages, four workshops replacing temporary ones and other production support buildings.
The new buildings will be similar in height to existing sound stages, with some green roofs incorporated.
The studio is also expanding car parking to 750 spaces, upgrading existing access from the A308 and proposing a roundabout to help traffic flow for the 600 people coming to and from the site.
The plans include landscaping in the form of a sloping frontage planted with trees and wildflowers, which will partly screen the development, enhancing the view from the A308 of what is 'currently a relatively barren site'.
There is also a plan for a nature conservation area along part of the river frontage.
The expanded site will incorporate next door’s Water Oakley Farm – the current site of the former Phoenix Gymnastics Club, which Bray Studios has made an application to demolish. The site was set to be developed for housing.
The studio says more than 1,150 new jobs will be created for actors, film crew and production staff, (though some of these will be off-site) and 1,690 jobs will be created in associated industries. A further 380 temporary jobs will be available for the 24 months of construction.
An £118m annual production spend is expected, much of which is planned to be spent locally.
Bray Film Studios has also created a directory of local suppliers – listing more than 50 local companies and service providers such as hotels, caterers, florists and even charity shops.
This is to encourage production crews to shop local. Bray Studios says it is working with the Chamber of Commerce to maximise the benefit to local businesses.
Bray Parish Council (BPC) said it is too soon for it to form an official view on the expansion – but did say that this is ‘an important application with many implications’ and a number of key considerations will need to be taken into account.
BPC’s view will be shaped by evaluating the impact on greenbelt versus the significant employment opportunities.
It will also be looking to find out how residents feel about the Studios’ development and will consider the lack of housing in the area.
Some of the parish council’s stance will depend on the specifics of the plan – whether ‘iconic’ buildings will be retained, how much will be built and how much demolished.
Another factor is the road – BPC is currently ‘extremely concerned’ about the A308 traffic and will be looking to find out what impact the development would have on it.
The consultation begins on June 8 and ends on the June 21. To give your views, visit www.brayfilmstudiosconsultation.com
Any local businesses who wish to supply the studios can contact firstname.lastname@example.org