A new Hollywood-scale film studio planned for Dagenham East has come a step closer after the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said a study has shown the site is an ideal location and a “rare chance” to build the first new TV and film studio in the capital in 25 years.
The next step is to find investors to back development of the up to 20-acre (eight-hectare) site – nine acres of which is industrial land purchased from Sainsbury’s for £12m last year – which a feasibility study has determined is an “ideal location for Hollywood-style studio space”.
The report, unveiled by Khan and Darren Rodwell, the leader of Barking and Dagenham council in east London, outlines how Dagenham East represents a “rare chance to build a world-class film studio in London”.
“London is a global capital for film – from Bond to Bridget Jones, and Star Wars to Paddington – and I know these new studios will have us hot on the heels of Hollywood for blockbuster movies, showing the world that London is open to creativity, business and talent,” said Khan.
“I am determined to do more to support economic growth and create new jobs across London. A new film studio in Dagenham East will bring hundreds of new jobs to the area, benefiting everyone from carpenters to camera operators.”
The study estimates that a studio of this size in Dagenham East could generate around 780 full-time jobs in the local area and generate £35m each year for the UK economy.
The borough’s film office has been involved in attracting a number of big budget films such as Doctor Strange and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as TV dramas including Channel 4’s Humans, ITV’s Liar and Netflix’s dystopian Black Mirror.
The London suburb lent its name to Made In Dagenham, the 2010 film about female workers protesting for equal pay at the local Ford factory in the 1960s, which was filmed in locations including Wales.
“This is a landmark day for Barking and Dagenham and yet another sign that we are turning the tide on the borough’s fortunes,” said Rodwell. “We were known for producing cars in the last century but today we aspire to produce blockbuster films. Together with city hall, our plans demonstrate our commitment to bring jobs and new opportunities to east London.”
Be First, Barking and Dagenham council’s urban regeneration company which is handling the development, is now inviting formal expressions of interest from investors, entrepreneurs and businesses to build and operate the studio space. Expressions of interest are due by 20 December with a formal tender process due to start next year.
“We have had interest already but we really want to see the full potential of this site,” said Pat Hayes, managing director of Be First. “This is an outstanding opportunity for an ambitious organisation to help make Dagenham famous for films as well as Fords.”
The new studio will be the largest in greater London and the first to be built since Three Mills, which is located between Bromley-by-Bow and West Ham in east London. Outside the capital, Pinewood, home of the James Bond and Star Wars films, Shepperton studios and Leavesden, where the Harry Potter films were shot, will all be larger than the Dagenham East site.
“There are already amazing productions being made in Dagenham and I know these new studios will have us hot on the heels of Hollywood for blockbuster movies, showing the world that London is open to creativity, business and talent,” said Khan.
Approximately three-quarters of the UK’s film industry is based in and around London, and last year £1bn was attracted to the city in inward investment from international film production. London is the third busiest city for film production in the world, after Los Angeles and New York.
Studios including Pinewood and Shepperton are in the midst, or planning, expansion to keep up with the demands of the UK’s booming film and TV production industry.
In 2016, the value of feature film production in the UK hit a record £1.6bn, with the vast majority of that “inward investment”, mostly from Hollywood studios making big-budget blockbusters.
Last year, Khan teamed up with Film London, the London Local Enterprise Panel and the Barking and Dagenham council to commission a study into the proposed new film studio. The study suggests the UK could need a further 18-28 acres of studio space by 2032.
“The demand for studio space in the UK has never been higher and the creation of these studios offers a fantastic opportunity for our industry,” said Barbara Broccoli, producer of the James Bond films.
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