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Watford Borough Council approves Warner Bros expansion plans

A second council has given Warner Bros the green light to expand its studios – where Mission: Impossible 7, Harry Potter and House of the Dragon were filmed.

Watford Borough Council’s planning committee granted the studios permission to press ahead with its “masterplan” at a meeting on Tuesday, January 10.The development would straddle the boundary between the Watford and Three Rivers borough and district areas.

In December, Three Rivers District Council granted planning permission to Warner Bros, but the government’s levelling up secretary will have the opportunity to rule on the plans before anything is built.

An artist's impression of the proposed Warner Bros studios expansion. (Image: Warner Bros/Watford Borough Council)

“It’s absolutely indisputable that the Warner Bros studio brings with it so many opportunities for Watford,” Councillor Peter Jeffree (LD, Park) told his colleagues, after hearing statements from the studios team and a member of the public.

“One thing that is perhaps a slight disappointment is that all the excitement is happening on the inside.

“It’s a very functional building from the outside but Tom Cruise is on the inside.”Councillors said Warner Bros had been a “good neighbour” since it took over the site in 2010.

They learned that – within the Watford borough boundary – the application affected only former green belt land, which lost its status when the borough’s Local Plan was agreed in October.

The majority of the site falls outside Watford – within the Three Rivers district area – which is designated green belt.

A map of the proposed - and agreed - development at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden. (Image: Warner Bros / Watford Borough Council)

The committee agreed there are “very special circumstances” to grant planning permission in the green belt – specifically that the studios would result in a multi-million pound investment into a “nationally significant” site.

Warner Bros’ masterplan features 11 new sound stages with a maximum height of 21.5 metres, new production offices, three workshops, a multi-storey car park featuring 2,500 parking spaces and a new roundabout near the A41 North Western Avenue.

There are also proposals for a new public green space featuring 40 new trees including an orchard and semi-mature oak trees.

Mr Kowalewski, a member of the public, said he objected to plans for a new multi-storey car park and questioned why “acres of permeable soil are being tarmacked over”.

“When the studios draw large quantities of water the pressure in the nearby area suffers,” he added.

“It should be sorted out completely before the application is allowed to proceed.”

Warner Bros entrance. (Image: Warner Bros / Watford Borough Council)

Watford Borough Council’s planning committee agreed to conditions which mean Warner Bros must submit detailed information about drainage and water pollution before the development is completed.

Emily Stillman, the studios’ senior vice president, said Warner Bros is “focused on the demand for high quality television shows”.

“This is a dramatic shift in our industry and one which creates significant opportunities for us all,” she said.

“Our studios are designed for big blockbuster-type films and long-running TV shows which is exactly where the growth is now.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up said the application remains “under consideration”.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
Jan 19, 2023

It would be nice if we could find out something about all the other studios being put up around the country. Its a good feeling knowing the industry is moving forward for the future and our younger generations will have confidence in the future.

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