Development on land adjacent to Pinewood Studios of a live-work community for the creative industries, comprising external streetscapes for filming, employment uses, education provision, around 1,500 new homes, landscaping and re-profiling of a former landfill area, formal and informal recreation provision, local retail and community facilities, and an energy centre. Designed by Arup.
28 July 2009
Planning reference: 09/00706/OUT
The proposition to create a new hub for the creative industries at Pinewood is potentially exciting, but we regret that we are unable to support the current outline planning application. We cannot comment on the appropriateness or otherwise of development on Green Belt land, which is for others to decide. A commitment to improve local bus services goes some way to allay our concerns about the relative isolation of this site. The design and access statement provides some persuasive analysis of quality of life issues associated with the integration of permanent film sets with a residential environment. We also find the architectural concept of modern homes with reproduction period facades intriguing. However, given the complex and unusual nature of this project, we think a detailed planning application is needed, at least for the first phase of development, to make a convincing case for the scheme.
Setting aside the persuasive arguments for locating this development alongside the existing Pinewood Studios and also the Green Belt issue, we think this site has several disadvantages for a residential led mixed use development. The site is adjacent to the M25 along its north eastern boundary and as a result will suffer from noise and pollution. To the south west, the Pinewood Studios are accommodated in large quasi industrial sheds that make intimidating neighbours for modestly proportioned housing. These two neighbouring land uses prevent movement and access to the housing on two sides. To the south is the community of Iver Heath, but no links are proposed with this existing housing. The scheme seeks to compensate for this relative isolation through significant improvements to public transport, with a commitment to provide high frequency, good quality bus services to railway stations, employment and leisure destinations at Slough, Uxbridge and Gerrards Cross. It would be essential for any planning approval to ensure these bus services are delivered through legal agreements, including details of how services are established in relation to development phases.
Quality of life
The brief for Project Pinewood envisages the creation of a new hub for the creative industries, based on a critical mass of housing development, and including a screen craft academy, office, retail and community uses. It is envisaged that those involved in the film industry would live and work here. We think that for this aspiration to be achieved would require a means of guaranteeing first choice to industry professionals, for example through the use of covenants.
The concept of a residential development that also provides film sets also presents significant challenges in terms of quality of life. It is clear from the outline planning application material that serious consideration has been given to reconciling the needs of both residents and film makers. We find the concept of houses with reproduction historic facades with modern spaces behind them intriguing. At the masterplan scale, the mix of public spaces for filming, and non-filming spaces could create a place with unique character. However, it is not yet clear where affordable housing would be located, or how a registered social landlord would manage homes in such an unusual environment. The local authority has also noted that the development may become a tourist destination, by design or by default. The design and access statement includes a diagram explaining that two security points and four removable barriers would restrict access at certain times. Whilst this may deal with the practical aspects of controlling access to the scheme, it would be one factor in the highly unusual nature of the development.
The concept of a residential development that incorporates street scenes from cities including Chicago, Prague, Amsterdam and Venice is an intriguing one. This could be seen as a unique selling point for the development, quite apart from any contribution made to film production at Pinewood. We understand that contemporary living accommodation would be designed to sit behind the period facades. The success of this concept will depend on the quality of materials and construction detailing, and should therefore be tested through detailed designs.
Given the highly unusual nature of this development proposal, we are not convinced that an outline planning application is appropriate. Although the illustrative images of period facades and contemporary spaces for living are seductive, it is difficult to see how this could be tied to an outline planning approval. The parameter plans that form the basis of the outline application may guarantee little other than a mixed use development led by speculative housing. Clearly if an argument is to be made for development on Green Belt land for the benefit of the creative industries, the planning process must give certainty that convincing facilities relating to film making will be delivered. It is our view that this scheme should be the subject of a detailed planning application, at least for the first phase of development, to demonstrate how it will function as a film set, the quality of its architecture, and what it will be like as a place to live.