Scots university plans Pentlands film academy if studio gets go-ahead

Artist's impression of the proposed Pentlands film studio
Artist's impression of the proposed Pentlands film studio

A Scottish university would create its own film academy on the outskirts of Edinburgh if controversial plans for a green belt studio get the go-ahead.

Edinburgh Napier officials are in talks with the consortium behind the Pentland Studios Project over a joint venture at the 106-acre site at Straiton in Midlothian.

Up to 500 students could be based there within five years at what would become Scotland’s first purpose-built studio complex.

The university already teaches students writing, directing, producing and animation.

Promised facilities include six “sound stages” up to 70ft tall for indoor filming, two backlots, a hotel, a 50,000sq ft creative industries hub and 50,000sq ft of workshop space. Students at the academy would get “hands-on” experience working on major productions, while there would be accommodation for up to 120 students on site.

Details of the potential tie-up have emerged weeks before the Scottish Government is due to decide the fate of the project.

The Pentland Studios consortium launched an appeal over the handling of the project by Midlothian Council. Officials raised concerns it would cause unacceptable disruption to residents, threaten the expansion of nearby developments and blight the local landscape.

It is hoped up to 1,600 jobs would be created by the £230 million development, the first phase of which is planned to be up and running by 2018.

Jim O’Donnell, development director of the Pentland Studios project, said: “We’ve been speaking to the university for some time about a possible partnership and we’ve now reached the stage where we have the framework of an agreement that we can work within.

“There would be nothing like this anywhere else in Europe in terms of university students having a direct relationship with an operating studio. It would be a bit like a college hospital.”

A university spokesman said: “Edinburgh Napier 
has an international reputation for its provision in film, and was pleased to be approached to consider involvement in such a major new potential development for Scotland.

“However, discussions are still at a very early stage.”