UP to 900 new jobs could be created if a new film and television studio development is given the go-ahead on the outskirts of Edinburgh, its developers have revealed.
The team behind the £150 million scheme earmarked for 86 acres of unused land in Midlothian have revealed their full, expanded plans for the project for the first time ahead of submitting a full planning application.
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The Pentland Studios project – which would include eight sound stages up to 70ft tall and a Hollywood-style “backlot” – is one of three separate schemes being explored in Scotland at present. If completed, it would be the UK’s third biggest film studio, after Pinewood and Leavesden, in London.
But, crucially, those behind the project insist they can press ahead without the need for public funding, which will avoid concerns over a possible breach of EU state aid rules, which have delayed projects elsewhere in Scotland. After striking a legal agreement to buy up the necessary land, they say they are on the verge of agreeing a deal with private-sector backers, but admit the scheme rests on securing permission to develop on green belt land.
The consortium behind the scheme – led by former Ealing Studios director Jeremy Pelzer and former Warner Bros development manager Jim O’Donnell – says it has spent around two years on its plans for the 86-acre site, near existing Asda and Ikea superstores. But they revealed they pulled out of a bidding process for a publicly funded Scottish studio last year in frustration at the way it was being handled.
However, the consortium still hopes work on Pentland Studios will be under way by the autumn, with the aim of opening the first facilities within three years.
O’Donnell said he got involved with the project after Warner asked him to scope out potential sites around Scotland. He said: “Warner Bros had an inclination to look at opening a studio in Scotland, after they were approached by Scottish Enterprise.
“I had a set of criteria and looked at 28 sites, including Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Gleneagles, Inverness and the Borders. My report said the site at Straiton was the only suitable one. Unfortunately there was a change of policy and Warner Bros decided to invest more money in Leavesden instead. But I came back here and looked into assembling a consortium to take a studio forward.
“The real driver for the project is that the talent wants to come to Scotland. What’s led our development is an assessment of what the market requires. We are future-proofing the studio.”
O’Donnell admitted the Pentland Studios scheme was a “property development venture” but denied suggestions the film studio concept was being used as a “Trojan Horse” to win permission for new housing or retail developments on the site. “The film studio is the primer for the whole development. There is no retail or housing on the development anywhere. We have a 160-bedroom hotel, but that is for the studio.”