Development and regeneration in Barking and Dagenham

Stars of the screen

By Shailja Morris - Fri 16 March 2018, 2:36 pm

Dagenham East is to become home to London's first film studios of significant scale in more than 25 years, with tens of millions of pounds generated for the economy.

Image courtesy of Be First

Council-owned regeneration company Be First is now inviting companies to tender for the project, as Shailja Morris reports

Film industry heavyweights from around the globe have entered a tendering process to build and operate Dagenham East's Hollywood-scale film and TV studios.

Barking and Dagenham Council’s regeneration company, Be First, is now scrutinising bids from screen industry companies. David Harley, head of regeneration at Be First, says: "Strong interest has been shown so far as this is such a rare opportunity to address the industry’s shortage of space. “However, one of our key requirements from the successful bidder is their commitment to working with local training providers."

"Before launching the tender in February 2018, Barking and Dagenham Council and Be First invited initial expressions of interest from potential bidders last November. Harley says: "We received more interest than we anticipated from screen industries across the world, from Europe to the Middle East and the US, as well as the UK."

The hotly anticipated project will be the first studio complex to be developed in the capital for 25 years and will boost Dagenham's fortunes on a scale not seen since the launch of the Ford Dagenham motor company nearly 90 years ago.

A feasibility study jointly commissioned by the council, Be First, and the mayor of London, estimates the studios will create 1,000 full-time on-site jobs and thousands more from spin-off industries, including advertising, catering and tourism. On a national level, the project is expected to generate £35 million annually for the UK economy.

Once the tender process is closed and a partner announced, work will begin to transform more than eight hectares of disused industrial land into world-class studios that could be up and running as early as next year.

Early designs of the bespoke complex near the Londoneast-UK business park, reveal around 11,612sq m of studio space, plus workshops and vehicle access. Harley explains: “The studios offer a real transformational opportunity for Dagenham in a growing sector that will deliver a wide range of opportunities for the local population.

"It will put Dagenham on the map within the international film industry.”

And the studio will further boost the UK's popularity as a filming base. In 2017, a record £2.8 billion was spent on film and TV production – a healthy 11% rise on the previous year.

This is despite a space squeeze in the UK that saw the Alien and Blade Runner sequels having to move their production to other countries. Harley says: "The film and television industry is a changing market. With the growth of Netflix and Amazon, there's a huge demand for it, but there’s a real supply shortage. The new studios will help fill this gap and contribute to the growth of this important sector."

A longer version of this article appears in issue #10 of BOLD magazine, published March 2018

Click here to get a copy

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