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Council approves £3.4 million to design Dagenham film studios and secure planning permission

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 October 2019

How the new film studios in Dagenham East could look. Picture credit: LBBD

How the new film studios in Dagenham East could look. Picture credit: LBBD

Archant

Barking and Dagenham's cabinet has approved £3.4million to design and secure planning permission for film studios in Dagenham.

A warehouse on the site for the proposed project. Picture: Ken Mears.A warehouse on the site for the proposed project. Picture: Ken Mears.

The decision at a Tuesday, October 15 meeting means the authority's development arm Be First is now set to take the next step to make the project a reality. The council's proposed masterplan for the 20 acre site includes five soundstages, supported by workshops and offices.

But this new move is only necessary because the preferred bidder to build the studios, Pacifica Ventures, failed to perform according to council documents.

It put its plans on hold because of the uncertainty around Brexit, the American company said in a statement, adding it hopes to restart work "very soon".

By designing the studios and gaining planning permission, the council is hoping to reduce that uncertainty for potential partners. As Pacifica's "exclusivity period" has now expired, it could be another company that completes the project.

Despite the setback, council leader Darren Rodwell is upbeat about the studios.

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"This is the next exciting stage in our ambition to build the largest studios in London for 25 years," said Cllr Rodwell.

Be First's managing director Pat Hayes added he thinks the project will make Dagenham as famous for films as it was for Ford.

"What is not in doubt is the viability and demand for studio space in the UK, which remains sky high, and that is why I am convinced there will be plenty of interest from parties who want to make sure movies will be made in Dagenham," he said.

If the council gets planning permission for the studios, it can then decide what to do with the project. The options range from selling the land to a studio builder, to the council constructing and running the soundstages itself.

Buying the site and holding it has cost £43.5m so far, but the land is now worth more than what the council paid for it, according to Cllr Cameron Geddes. He declined to say how much more, citing commercial sensitivity.

He added the land value will increase further if planning permission is granted, covering the council's £3.4m investment.

A restrictive covenant means the site can't be used to build homes.

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