Plans to build London’s largest film studios on former industrial land in Dagenham were approved at a meeting of Barking and Dagenham Council’s planning committee last night.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council hailed the decision as ‘momentous’.

He said: “This is a huge decision for the borough. It gives the green light to what will be London’s largest film studios, so it’s a major milestone in the renewal of a part of London badly hit by de-industrialisation and austerity.

“The new Dagenham studios sit alongside one of the largest data centres in the UK and the UCL’s innovative PEARL project, and there are also plans to relocate the City of London’s wholesale markets to a site nearby. This will mean thousands of jobs and educational opportunities for local people.

“So, where once Dagenham was known for Ford’s and factories, we will be making films and a new bright new future for our borough and its residents.”

The plans for the film studios feature:

  • six world class sound stages totalling c.140,000 sqft (1x 30,000 sqft and 5x 22,000 sqft)
  • flexible accommodation adjacent to the sound stages for uses such as production offices, hair and makeup or dressing rooms
  • conversion of two existing buildings into workshops for set construction and associated industry users
  • a landmark office building for the pre and post production alongside space for associated creative industry businesses
  • an estimated 1,200 jobs are projected to be created in the studios and associated supply chain, and
  • key sustainability measures incorporated within the design including green roofs

An aerial view and computer generated image of the site, together with a comment from Cllr Darren Rodwell, is available here.

The Council’s planning committee agreed the reasons for approval and delegated to grant planning permission subject to any direction from the Mayor of London and the completion of a Unilateral Undertaking under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Last night’s decision gives significant momentum to the discussions Be First is having, on behalf of the council, with potential interested parties to determine whether to secure a joint venture agreement, a land sale or for Be First to build the studios and lease the site to an interested party.

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Pat Hayes, Managing Director of Be First said: “We’ve had a great deal of interest in the site and with planning permission secured the interest will intensify.  With the ever growing demand for studio space in the UK, we’re in a very good position to take this project forward.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “I am delighted to see Dagenham studios get the green light. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK screen industries were enjoying an exceptional boom time and we’re committed to driving the sector’s recovery. Following our publication of the UK’s British Film Commission production guidance, as we get back to work safely and production starts shooting again, I am confident that we shall return to that level of growth, and exceed it, in coming years.

“So, it’s crucial we continue to develop our world-class infrastructure. This cutting-edge proposal will further bolster London’s studio offer, supporting economic growth and creating new jobs. It’s important for Dagenham, it’s compelling for London and it’s a significant addition to the UK’s world-leading film and TV sector.”

Lisa Dee, Head of Film LBBD, 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 (to be released) – contributing to the £1.742 billion total UK inward investment from feature films for last year.

“And, as London is moving a lot of work east, we are finding more crew and production workers are living in east, south-east and north London areas, so we’re on their doorstep, which makes Dagenham studios a great geographical fit for the existing and the next generation of crew and creatives.”

Alistair Weir, of PRP architects, said: It’s enormously rewarding to see the application unanimously approved and I’m delighted that this helps the Council take a significant step in delivering their aspirations for a world-class studio.”