Monday 20 May 2019

€90m plan for 'Vikings' studio extension faces appeal delay

Producers of the hit TV series ‘Vikings’ had hoped to expand film-making at Ashford Studios but the expansion plans now face a delay of up to six months
Producers of the hit TV series ‘Vikings’ had hoped to expand film-making at Ashford Studios but the expansion plans now face a delay of up to six months

Gordon Deegan

A question mark has been placed over new plans for a €90m extension to the Co Wicklow studios where the hit series, 'Vikings' is shot.

Last month, Wicklow Co Council gave the green light for plans by Ashford Studios where the proposal - which includes four new 40,000 sq ft film studios, a TV studio, offices and support space - has the potential to create 1,500 movie-related jobs.

The plan also includes  a visitor centre in a bid to underpin the development of a TV and film skills cluster in the county.

Phase one of the studios was completed in May 2012 and during six years of operation, the 'Vikings' series has been located there utilising 33 acres of space and hiring up to 450 people during filming.

However, two locals, Emily Olive Hill and Sharon Hughes have now lodged an appeal against Wicklow Co Council's decision to grant planning permission with An Bord Pleanála.

In opposing the plan, an objection by the two lodged with the council claims that "the scale and mass of the proposed development is not in keeping with the rural character of the area". The objection lodged on the objectors' behalf by RPS states that "the proposed development will inevitably radically alter the existing rural landscape and the views of the unspoilt hills forming the site". 

The objection also raises concern over possible night-time filming at the site. The objection states that "night-time filming is likely to result in night-time noise and light pollution within this rural area which may have a significant negative impact on the residential amenity of our clients' property".

The objection stresses that the two are not opposed in principle to the provision of expanded film studios within the lands zoned for employment use specific to the film industry.

The objection states that the two do have specific concerns regarding the subject proposal with respect to the scale, nature and design of the proposed development.

The objection states that the proposed development does not conform with a number of requirements attached to the land zoning as set out in the Wicklow County Development Plan.

Ashford Studios had targeted starting work on the project in mid-June but the appeal will - at the very least - delay works by four to six months.

Last month, Ashford Studios MD Shelley Hargadon said that the planning decision provided an opportunity to market Ireland and Wicklow as a serious film destination.

In 2016, accounts show that Ashford Studio recorded profits of €1.59m.

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