PSL Land Ltd

Scotland’s first purpose-built film & TV studio wins formal government backing

Scottish ministers have granted planning permission in principle for the country’s first purpose-built film and TV studio following a long-running planning battle.

Developers PSL Land Ltd said the Pentland Studios, which will be based near Straiton, outside Edinburgh, could help kick-start Scotland’s film industry and create more than 900 jobs.

The decision to back the Keppie-designed facility overturns an earlier recommendation from a Scottish Government reporter that permission be refused.

The proposal was called in by the government after Midlothian Council failed to make a ruling on the application, which was originally submitted in 2014. Ministers deemed the studio to be of “national significance” and used its Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals to rule on the application.

Developers behind the £850 million development on the site of the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh tried to block the plans last January amid fears it could undermine its own project.

WSP in Edinburgh, which has been instrumental in helping client PSL Land Ltd achieve planning permission in principle, has welcomed the decision.

The engineering professional services consulting firm was appointed in 2014 to assist in the planning of the world-class film and TV studio. As the project progresses onto the next stage, the team in Edinburgh will continue to support on the civil and structural, environmental and geotechnical areas of the project.

PSL Land Ltd is now working towards securing planning in detail.

David Campbell, technical director at WSP, said: “We are delighted that the scheme has been granted planning permission from the Scottish Government. It’s truly a unique project and we’ve enjoyed helping Pentland Studios in the planning process. We now look forward to start working on the next stage.”

Director of development for PSL, Jim O’Donnell, added: “We are extremely pleased to have reached this major milestone in the studio complex’s journey, after a considerable period of time and work to date. We particularly want to thank those including WSP who have supported the project throughout the past three years, and we look forward to reaching the next milestone as soon as possible.”

Straiton film and TV studio plan approved by ministers

StudioA major new film studio looks set to receive planning permission after the Scottish Government said it was minded to approve plans for the development.

Planning permission was agreed in principle yesterday after ministers overturned a decision against the studio, which will be built on green-belt land at Straiton on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Developers PSL Land Ltd said the Pentland Studios could help kick-start Scotland’s film industry and create more than 900 jobs.

The decision to back the Keppie-designed facility overturns an earlier recommendation from a Scottish Government reporter that permission be refused.

The proposal was called in by the government after Midlothian Council failed to make a ruling on the application, which was originally submitted in 2014.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The intention to grant planning permission in principle for the Pentlands development, subject to conditions and a planning obligation, has been made after careful consideration of the planning report and issues raised in objections.

“We welcome the potential for significant socio-economic benefits on a local and national scale through job creation and economic development.”

PSL hopes the studios would be open by late 2018.

A PSL spokesman said: “We will be moving forward immediately with the application for planning permission in detail for the film studio, academy and energy centre sections of the development.

“Working together with Midlothian Council, we hope this next stage will be expedited accordingly, recovering the construction scheduling that will enable delivery of the key studio operation by late 2018.

“It is anticipated that a detailed schedule to progress the planning application will be agreed with Midlothian Council in the next few weeks, producing a phased timeframe with the studio, academy and energy centre as the first buildings to be progressed to full planning consent.”

213030_N15_mediumKeppie’s planning team were heavily involved in gaining government support for the plans which could lead to around 1600 jobs as well as delivering other social-economic benefits for the local area and community.

Richard MacDonald, director of Keppie Design, said: “We’re delighted to see positive progress taking place on this dynamic new initiative. It’s another great addition to Keppie’s growing portfolio of leisure and entertainment related projects.

“During the design journey, we’ve been able to draw on our multi-sector experience and broad skill base to make sure the blend of studio, film academy, creative industries hub, hotel and energy centre were all carefully considered. There’s no doubt that this unique development will allow the Scottish film and TV industry to successfully compete with the very best of the existing studio facilities in the UK.”

Gordon Allerton, director at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, , which was appointed in 2014 to assist in the planning of the project, said: “We are delighted that the studio has received consent from the Scottish Government.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed supporting Pentland Studios in the planning process and are very grateful to be involved in a project that will have such a positive impact for the whole country.

“Our hope is that we can add to the work that has already been completed, in particular working closely with Midlothian Council to identify a route map for the proposed A701 relief road.”

Gordon Ash, director, PSL Land Ltd, added: “The team at WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff  have been extremely supportive and professional during the planning stages of the studio.

“It is an exciting prospect for everyone now to begin work on bringing Scotland its first world class film and TV studio complex.

“We look forward to working with both WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and Midlothian Council on the next stages of the project.”

Straiton film studio decision delayed until after Holyrood elections

StudioA decision over plans to build a £140 million film studio proposed for Straiton in Midlothian has been deferred until after the Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Government has called in PSL Land Ltd’s proposal after deeming the studio to be of “national significance” and will use its Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals to rule on the application.

The developer had requested its proposal was examined by ministers after it claimed Midlothian Council had failed to decide on the campus within their stated time frame.

Developers behind the £850 million development on the site of the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh are also trying to block the plans amid fears it could undermine its own project.

However a government spokesman said it is “extremely unlikely” that the hearing will take place before May.

The spokesman said: “The exchanges of written submissions with regard to this appeal are continuing and the reporter is waiting further comments from parties in response to matters raised by Scottish Natural Heritage.

“With that in mind, it is extremely unlikely that the pre-election period will have any impact on this appeal.”

Meanwhile, Midlothian councillor Ian Baxter has argued that locating the film studio near the new Shawfair development would not just be an alternative, but also a much better option.

He said: “Shawfair has all the infrastructure links, location and surrounding amenities to accommodate a world-class film production studio.  An added bonus will be the pool of young creative talent on the doorstep.  The local Shawfair School has been designated a centre of excellence for creative industries and Queen Margaret University is walking distance away.  This means we have joined up thinking where we train young people and show them the career path – just a short distance away.”

Ministers to re-consider Midlothian film studio plans

StudioThe Scottish Government is to call-in plans for a £140 million film and television studio development in Midlothian after a U-turn by ministers.

Developer PSL Land Ltd had requested its proposal was examined by ministers after it claimed the local authority had failed to decide on the campus within their stated time frame.

However, after initially rejecting this plea, the Scottish Government now deems the studio to be of “national significance” and will use its Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals to rule on the application.

Planned for soon to be delisted greenfield land to the west of the A701 at Straiton, the Keppie-designed facility would be Scotland’s first purpose-built film studio complex.

If approved, the complex will be comprised of sound stages, backlots, a film school, hotel, student accommodation and energy centre. A studio tour building and a mixed use development could follow.

The developer’s intentions are for part of the complex to be operational by Autumn 2017.

Scottish Government rejects plea to call-in £140m Midlothian film studio

StudioThe Scottish Government has rejected a request to call-in plans for a £140 million film and television studio development in Midlothian.

Developers PSL Land Ltd’s attempt to speed up a planning decision on their proposals was made after it claimed the council failed to decide on the campus within their stated time frame.

Planned for soon to be delisted greenfield land to the west of the A701 at Straiton, the facility would be Scotland’s first purpose-built film studio complex.

However, after Midlothian Council delayed its decision on the scheme, PSL wrote to the Scottish Government to “call in” the plans and consider them.

The request was sent to Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for social justice and communities.

However, the developers had their bid rejected.

In the reply, from the Local Government and Communities Directorate, Planning and Architecture Division, the developers were told that ministers – who have the power to call in any live planning application for determination – would only do so if the proposal “raised issues of genuine national interest.”

The letter goes on: “Having considered the information available for this proposal and while noting the major potential of the proposal and the intended delivery of an energy centre and film studio for Scotland; Ministers do not propose to call-in the application at this time.”

The developers are now appealing the decision.

Ministers urged to call in Midlothian studio plans following council delay

StudioDevelopers behind plans to create a £140 million film and television studio development in Midlothian have requested that the Scottish Government call-in their application for consideration claiming the council is taking too long to make a decision.

Scottish International Studios, otherwise known as PSL Land Ltd or Pentland Studios, claimed the local authority’s planning committee failed to decide on the campus set for soon to be delisted greenfield land to the west of the A701 at Straiton within their stated time frame.

Comprised of sound stages, a substantial backlot complex, employment land, hotel, power plant, film school and student accommodation, the new development would occupy 86 acres of land between the planned A701 bypass and the current road.

Having submitted an application in May this year, developers were expecting their proposals to be determined a statutory 16 weeks later on September 5th, however the date passed without the required consideration by the council’s planning committee. The developer said that they continued to work with the authority after this date:

PSL Land Ltd has had the option to lodge this request with the Scottish Ministers from 6 September 2015, however chose to continue to work with Midlothian Council planning officers towards achieving a positive recommendation to the Planning Committee to grant Planning Permission in Principle for the proposal by December 2015.

Now 28 weeks since the application was submitted, PSL Land say that the council’s planning officers are signalling that they will be unable to assess the application until the draft Local Development Plan (LDP) is ratified by the Scottish Government in June 2016. Developers added that officials believed there would be a “significant departure from the Development Plan” should the application be approved.

Documents published on Midlothian Council’s website state that the studios have been asked to redraw their application taking into account the proposed routing of the new A701, which is set to bisect the development site. Current plans show the new road running to the west of the land, running alongside housing at Damhead.

There are fears amongst planners at the council that the emerging “development plan could fall” should developers be giving permission. This however contradicts the view of some elected members, namely independent Councillor Peter de Vink, who stated that “the council should bend over backwards” to accommodate the plans.

Should ministers call-in the application before 4 December, PSL Land ltd will not appeal for non-determination through the government’s Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA), as they are allowed to under planning law. If this date passes without ministerial acceptance, the developer will appeal and start the necessary proceedings that remove the council from determining the application, placing the decision making powers in the hands of an assigned reporter.

In response to the council’s position on delaying the determination, PSL Land added: “PSL Land Ltd would wish to state they have no issue with the assessment, but raise considerable concerns as to why it has taken until week 28 of the decision-making process to adopt this position, particularly as Midlothian Council intend in the Emerging Local Plan to remove the Greenbelt designation on the PSL Land site.

“As a result of this change in position by the Midlothian Council officials, PSL Land Ltd have lodged a request for the application to be called in by Scottish Ministers for consideration as a project of national importance.”

The Keppie Design penned proposals would create Scotland’s first purpose built film studio and, according to developers, could deliver millions of pounds and create hundreds of jobs in Midlothian. PSL Land began discussions with Midlothian Council in the middle of 2013, saying they received strong early support from officers and elected members. The site at Old Pentland was selected out of a possible 28 other candidates throughout the country for its access to land and the transport links to Scotland’s capital.

It is believed that three other sites in Scotland are being considered to create a national film studio, though PSL Land Ltd are the only developers to submit plans.

Major film & TV studio plans submitted

Straiton film studioPSL Land Ltd (PSLL) has lodged an application with Midlothian Council for planning permission in principle for a unique mixed-use studio development site at Straiton, near Edinburgh.

The 86 acre site will host a world-class film and television production facility incorporating six sound stages, an external water-stage, two backlots, workshops and production office spaces.

Complementing the core campus will be a film academy and student residence, a visitor attraction and hotel. A data centre and satellite-link ‘earth station’, parking areas and an innovative CHP energy centre will support the future-proofed complex.

Jim O’Donnell, PSLL development director, said: “We look forward to creating a world-class facility to complement Scotland’s existing studio spaces and stunning locations. Situated on the outskirts of one of Europe’s greatest cities, the proposed studio will place broadcast, indigenous and international film production needs at the forefront, whilst retaining the character and integrity of the local area and its natural beauty.”

The studio design team is led by multi-disciplinary architectural practice Keppie Design. Centred around a landscaped oasis, the 50,000 sq ft reception building will provide a creative hub for resident production companies, staff and visiting crew with a studio commissary offering stunning views of the Pentland Hills across a landscaped glen.

Straiton film studio (1)

Creating a production facility of national importance that will also target the international market, six state-of-the-art sound stages offer a range of options with two at 15,000 sq ft, two at 30,000 sq ft and two at 20,000 sq ft.  The two largest stages will reach a height of 70 feet, with the remaining four stages measuring 50 feet each. With clientele to include independent and major studio productions for both film and television, the six stages will also provide production opportunities for the advertising and games industries, as well as rehearsal space for theatre and music companies. Each sound stage will be enveloped by facilities space, allowing production personnel to be in the immediate vicinity of the shooting stages. An additional 55,000 sq ft of workshops will provide prep and post production areas for the creative departments.

Complementing the varied interior shooting options and benefitting from a location away from any aircraft flight path is a 45,000 sq ft exterior ‘paddock’ water-stage for filming. Two backlots of 8.6 acres and 20.14 acres respectively allow for significant production set-builds and space with a unique backdrop.

Promising to be the UK’s only purpose-built studio in recent decades, the new build can ensure important elements for future-proofing, avoiding compromises for production, and utilising innovative uses of space; and is anticipated to attain a BREEAM® ‘excellent’ rating.

Recognising the natural synergy with a working studio, PSLL are discussing the optimum requirements for a first-class educational facility for practical production skills with established educators.  An integral part of the studio complex and investing in the future skills-base will be an associated film academy which will comprise of a 28,000 sq ft teaching pavilion and 33,000 sq ft of student residence.  Echoing a similar synergy with educational elements, a visitor attraction is also proposed over a 23,000 sq ft area, inviting the general public to experience the working dynamic of a world-class production facility.

Alan Seddon, Keppie Design divisional director, architecture, said: “Film and television play an important role in people’s lives, but for most of us their production is such a remote activity, both physically and emotionally.  That a project like this should be coming to Scotland is amazing and we at Keppie feel genuinely privileged to have been involved in getting it to this stage.  Now that we have achieved such a significant milestone, we have our sights firmly set on the next stage and are looking forward to delivering the studio itself.”

An on-site 180 bed hotel is also proposed and will include a swimming pool and gymnasium as elements of a health spa.

Continuing detailed conversations with a range of partners and potential users of the various spaces and elements that comprise the mixed-use site, PSLL have reserved 11.95 acres for future employment land.  Providing options for further development once the initial phase of the complex has been completed, this space protects the primary Studio investment, precluding any future residential development by external parties.

PSLL chairman, Douglas McGhee, added: “We are very pleased to have progressed the project to this next stage, and thank all members of the public and industry who contributed to the public consultation process. With extensive research and design talent behind the project, we hope this application will be recognised not only as a significant asset for Midlothian, but also for Scotland, the film, television and creative industries across the globe.”