Dagenham film studios plan gets council approval

Plans for London’s largest Hollywood-style film studios have been given the go-ahead.

The £110 million proposals for six sound stages, workshops for set construction, post-production offices and hair and make-up spaces on a 22-acre former pharmaceutical factory site won unanimous approval from Barking and Dagenham council last night.

Dagenham Studios, which will feature 140,000 sq ft of sound stages, 85,200 sq ft of offices and 174,500 sq ft of workshops, is being hailed by the Labour-run authority as London’s biggest.

Council leader Darren Rodwell said: “This will mean thousands of jobs and educational opportunities for local people. Where once Dagenham was known for Fords and factories, we will be making films and a new bright new future for our borough.”

It came nine months after the project’s original backer, Pacifica Ventures, which designed the studios where Breaking Bad was made, pulled out over Brexit concerns.

But the council vowed to press on alone and its investment arm Be First is still in talks with potential joint venture partners. It has released £3.4 million to cover any pre-development costs.

Over the last five years the council has built up its own film unit, which it said has “established extremely good links with the industry and highlighted the challenges the industry is facing in terms of a shortage of studio space in London”.

It has already attracted big-budget films such as Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Black Widow and Doctor Strange, as well as hit TV dramas including Netflix’s Black Mirror.

The town hall estimates the studios will bring an initial 1,200 extra jobs to Barking and Dagenham.

The council’s head of film, Lisa Dee, said: “Barking and Dagenham is already a magnet for movie-makers. Two of the UK’s biggest features were filmed in Dagenham last year — Black Widow by Marvel and Morbius by Sony Pictures.

“As London is moving a lot of work east, we are finding more crew and production workers are actually living in east, south–east and north London areas, so we’re on their doorstep, which makes Dagenham Studios such a great geographical fit the next generation
of creatives.”

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the UK screen industries were enjoying an exceptional boom time and we’re committed to driving the sector’s recovery.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter