Scotland could soon have a permanent TV and film studio based at the Cumbernauld facility used for Sony’s award-winning historical drama Outlander, culture secretary Fiona Hyslop revealed today.
Hyslop confirmed to the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee that a private investor is expected to submit a planning application to develop the existing production facilities at Wardpark Studios to create a studio with six sound stages, production offices and ancillary spaces.
Wardpark Studios already comprise 48,000 square feet across four sound stages and was used for the production of the first and second series of Outlander.
Plans to expand the facilities to provide an extra 30,000 square feet across two new 50 foot-high sound stages have been the subject of negotiations between owners Wardpark Studios Ltd and the Film Studio Delivery Group (FSDG), comprising the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland.
Negotiations over public sector support for the commercial venture, which must comply with EU competition rules, are now “at an advanced stage.”
Wardpark Studios Ltd’s decision to seek planning consent is seen as an indication of the site owner’s commitment to the project.
It is expected the planning application will be submitted to North Lanarkshire Council later this week.
The FSDG also confirmed that conversations are underway with potential private sector investors in relation to additional studio sites in Scotland, and the group remains keen to hear new proposals.
The FSDG is keen to strengthen the Scottish screen industry.
Three new funds totalling £4.75 million were introduced in 2015, building on the £24.1 million of public funds awarded to support the Scottish screen sector in 2014/15.
This week Creative Scotland confirmed it has made its first conditional offers from the new £1.75 million Production Growth Fund.
“Wardpark Studios Limited’s decision to seek planning consent for new studio facilities in Cumbernauld marks an important milestone in our work to strengthen the Scottish screen sector,” said Hyslop.
“We’re seeing significantly increased activity in our screen sector. Film and TV producers spent an unprecedented £45.8 million shooting on location in Scotland in 2014.
“This record total — an increase of almost £12 million compared with 2013 — demonstrates a fast growing appetite for major productions to base themselves in Scotland.
“Our work to ensure additional screen infrastructure is developed in Scotland and the new funds we have set up, are helping us to build on this growth — incentivising filmmakers from around the world to come and realise their projects in Scotland.”
Natalie Usher, Creative Scotland’s director of screen said: “The response to the launch of the Production Growth Fund in September 2015 has been very encouraging and Creative Scotland’s Screen Commission has seen a marked increase in enquiries from UK and international productions considering accessing that funding and shooting in Scotland …
“In order to support local productions and attract UK and international productions, Scotland needs a full range of options for stage space and production offices: purpose-built studio facilities; full-time conversions such as the space currently used by Outlander at Wardpark; and build space like The Pyramids in Bathgate, and the Pelamis Building in Leith.
“Converted and build space in Scotland that is currently being marketed compares favourably with similar space marketed by other UK nations, but we also need purpose-built space in order to compete effectively.
“We are working through the FSDG to realise a purpose-built studio facility in addition to the existing full time converted space at Wardpark. We continue to investigate other potential options where there is interest from the market and appetite from private investors.”
Terry Thomson, chairman of Wardpark Studios Limited, said: “With each production using the site, the benefits to the local and national economy are increased, reaching far beyond simply the studio and deep into the supply chain.
“Lighting and rigging suppliers, local builders’ merchants, landscaping suppliers, transport suppliers and many others provide the products and services that ensure these global productions can be made right here in Scotland.
“Our planning application seeks to make the most of the existing facilities and land available. While we’ve reached agreement in principle with Scottish Enterprise and the Film Studio Delivery Group on possible financial support, there remain a few commercial details still to be finalised before we can move ahead with our plans.”