Scott Brownrigg’s master plan for a new film and television studio campus in central Bedfordshire near Stewartby has been submitted for planning. The scheme redevelops a 143-acre site and former clay mineral quarry to provide over 1.75m² of flexible studio space as well as on-site accommodation, amenities and a re-wild water feature and canal for developer VERB and film studio operator Quartermaster. Home of Production (HOP) Bedfordshire will set a new benchmark for sustainable studio facilities in the UK and will be the first facility designed by producers, for producers – also incorporating high-end facilities aimed directly at meeting the needs of crews of production to achieve a better balance in their working environment.
The old quarry, known as Quest Pit, opened in 1983 and was the last active brick quarry in Bedfordshire when it closed in 2008, leaving a series of redundant brownfields with driveways and flooded pits, and parts of the site up to 12 meters below natural ground level.
The master plan solves this problem by placing four separate 430,500 square foot production units on a 70 acre platform, four meters above water level. These units are built around an area for restoration and activities, visually connected to two large lakes that have formed over time due to the natural flooding of the extraction pits. Workshops envelop the studio space, while an outer loop road provides access to support facilities. It is important to note that the land has already been purchased and the realization of the master plan is fully funded, which means that a planning decision can move quickly when the building program starts.
Head of Masterplanning at Scott Brownrigg, Bruce Calton said of the project: “This complex Short, through an intriguing site, combines landscape, water, and a highly functional film and television campus master plan. It was an enriching experience to create such a unique setting for the house of Production (JUMP) in the UK.”
An accomplished and multi-disciplinary group was formed to drive the project forward and encompassing the wide range of skills and experience required for an ambitious project of this type. Quartermaster delivered the vision and extensive studio experience, partnering with property developer VERB to make this an operational reality. Scott Brownrigg and SWECO offered complementary input throughout the planning process to ensure that the overall master plan achieved as much
as possible from the site, while taking into account each of the ambitious performance objectives that the group has set itself.
The landscaping strategy developed by Macfarlane Associates includes the introduction of ecological corridors through the site and new wetlands and floating reedbeds to create habitats for future and existing wildlife. The planting of large trees around the perimeter of the site and the positioning of large-scale buildings in the base of the valley will significantly reduce the visual impact of the development on the surrounding flat landscape across Bedfordshire. This deliberately low-key approach is combined with strong commitments to a sustainable future for the site – targeting BREEAM Excellent for construction while installing photovoltaic panels throughout the site to provide between 50 and 85% depending on occupancy levels at a given time.
A transport node will connect the site to the local bus network with an arrival point for cyclists, pedestrians and coaches. New pedestrian links and walking routes line the perimeter of the site, with widened sidewalks to improve usability and safety.
The production house (HOP) development is expected to create 1,400 jobs in the area if approved. The submission for planning follows a series of public consultations where the scheme received significant public support and with exciting plans in place to continue to work hard with Central Bedfordshire Council as well as a range of local education bodies to bring real and measurable benefits to the community in the years to come. . A phased construction program is expected to start in early 2023.