Film and TV campus near Bedford would 'create nearly 4k jobs and boost economy by £242m a year'

An artist's impression of the campus. (c) CorkeWallis and V1An artist's impression of the campus. (c) CorkeWallis and V1
An artist's impression of the campus. (c) CorkeWallis and V1
The planning application for the campus has been deferred for two months

Up to 3,800 jobs would be created if a film and TV studio campus is built in Central Bedfordshire benefiting the region by £242m a year, a meeting heard.

But applicant Quest Pit Limited’s project is on hold for now, after Central Bedfordshire Council’s development management committee deferred it because of delays in making a report Appendix public.

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The firm’s hybrid plans could become part of an extension of Stewartby into Wixams, councillors were warned.

Its project includes film studios, sound stages, workshops, warehouses, offices, overnight accommodation, a community hub and a restaurant, according to a report to the committee.

Additional aspects are new access arrangements, a bus interchange, a car park and cycle storage, extra floorspace, and other works, said the report.

The development at Quest Pit, Ampthill Road, Houghton Conquest, would be on the site once proposed for the national institute for research into aquatic habitats (NIRAH) aquarium.

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Principal planning officer Andrew Cundy told the committee: “The 143-acre site covers two thirds of an area known locally as Quest Pit or Quest Park.

“In 2015, Quest Pit was designated a county wildlife site recognised for its rare breeding birds,” he explained.

“It’s outside the defined settlement envelope and within the open countryside, while it’s not allocated for development in the CBC Local Plan.

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“Stewartby is the nearest settlement. Full planning permission is sought for phase one.

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“This will deliver a significant number of economic benefits to both the local and regional economy.

“The applicant proposes to introduce a 30-year management of retained and created habitats.”

Stewartby and Kempston Hardwick Parish Council supports the overall plans and benefits to the local economy, but has concerns over the volume of traffic.

Independent Houghton Conquest and Haynes councillor Rebecca Hares referred to the accumulative impact of developments in the area, warning: “There’s huge population growth in Stewartby.

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“That can’t be considered, but it’s one of the community’s concerns that with the location of this Stewartby is merging into Wixams.”

Co-founder of Home Production Chris McDermott described its plans as a “modern film and television studio campus”, saying: “This is a business proposal for the long-term, which will grow to become an employment, education and training hub in the heart of the county.

“It sets a new standard, powered by 100 per cent renewable energy with at least 50 per cent would be generated on site.

“Protecting and improving the high value habitats which have developed on the site during the last ten years has been a central initiative.

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“It’s a large scale initiative creating up to 3,800 jobs and extra community revenue of £242m a year through a state-of-the-art facility, while creating an extra nature reserve almost three times the size of the current footprint.”

Conservative Clifton, Henlow and Longford councillor Richard Wenham suggested it would “really establish Central Bedfordshire at the heart of a rapid growth industry worldwide”, adding: “I think our residents would be aghast at us if we didn’t take every opportunity to support this with the appropriate ecological mitigations”.

Councillors deferred the development for two months.