Marlow Film Studios

from 2024?

 

In 2021 a company called Dido Property Ltd announced that they were proposing a major film studio just to the east of Marlow in Buckinghamshire.  Dido is apparently owned by four local entrepreneurs and arts industry professionals.  The site is currently rough grassland, unsuitable for agriculture as the ground is poor quality, being a light covering of topsoil over a domestic waste tip.  Previously, the area consisted of gravel pits, some of which were filled in and others flooded to form lakes.  The River Thames is not far from the site.

Before that, the area was used as a prison camp in the Second World War and before that, it was part of the land belonging to Westhorpe House, which still stands just to the south of the studio site.

 

The proposed studios occupy an area of 56 acres with the A404 Marlow bypass on the west and the A4155 to the north.  The developers also own a large field to the south, which may become a back lot for filming and another to the south of that, which they propose to open to the public as part of a much larger country park.  The proposals are not surprisingly being planned with the environment very much in mind.

Phase 2 of the public consultation process opened in October 2021.  Planning permission will be sought early in 2022 and it is likely to be several months before the local council make their decision so we shouldn’t expect the studios to be up and running much before 2024, but a date has not yet been mentioned.  Once completed, Dido say they will run the studios themselves.  They are looking at this as an investment in the film industry and are keen to be part of its world-beating success.

The Marlow Studios website explains how the site might be laid out with stages, workshops, offices, ‘media hub’ etc.  The illustration seems to suggest 18 stages plus a similar number of workshops, which puts this project on a similar scale to Shinfield Studios.  Those have already been given the go-ahead and are due to open in 2023.  They are about a half hour drive away, down the M4.  In fact, these studios sit centrally within the main cluster of film/TV studios in the UK, with Pinewood, Shepperton, Leavesden, Elstree, Bray, Shinfield, Longcross and Arborfield all within relatively easy access.  Perhaps it is worth mentioning that since 2015, more high-end TV and blockbuster movies have been made in the UK than in California.  This area west of London has become the new Hollywood.

 

I can see that this would be a popular place to work for many film actors, directors and HoDs.  Marlow itself is a very attractive old riverside town with a number of high quality restaurants, and a short distance away are Henley and Cookham, which also offer a number of top notch places to eat.  Meanwhile Bray, with its two Michelin 3 star restaurants is only a quarter of an hour away.  And I imagine some A-listers might choose to stay at Cliveden, which is a 12 minute drive from these studios.  Heathrow Terminal 5 is only half an hour from here.

 

I have looked at many proposals for studios over the years and I can say that these are amongst the best thought-out and well presented I have seen.  However, a well-organised local campaign objecting to the studios on environmental and green belt grounds means that planning permission cannot be taken for granted.