Meeting sought with new owner of Ardmore Studios
Councillors have raised concerns over the potential implications of the sale of Ardmore Studios and the acquisition of a separate shareholding which was owned by Enterprise Ireland.
Wicklow County Council will write to the new owners and invite them to the Council Chamber so they can outline their plans for Ardmore.
The studio has been bought by some of the shareholders of Troy Studios in Limerick. Cllr Joe Behan wondered if the deal had proved beneficial to the tax payer.
'On the face of it things look encouraging and the new owners are committed to retaining the site as a studio, which is of huge importance to the county and for people working in the film industry,' said Cllr Behan. 'However I have concerns over the Government selling the remaining State stake in the studio to these buyers. There is speculation that the Government wrote off debts owed to the state as part of the deal. It certainly appears very generous to the buyers. I would like to know what amount of received by the taxpayer and why was it sold? Recently enough the Minister of the time promised Oireachtas members that they would be informed before any decision to sell was made. That didn't happen.'
Cllr Behan outlined further concerns that the studios in Bray could lose out to Limerick.
He said: 'I am worried that at some point in time we will get a request from the owners saying there is massive capacity in Limerick but they need to sell off some space on Bray to expand. I'm concerned part of Ardmore could be lost.'
Cllr Behan proposed that the Council would never agree to any rezoning of the site to anything other than film making.
Cllr Nicola Lawless echoed Cllr Behan's sentiments.
'It's disappointing that the State sold their shares off. It still remains a film studio now, and I welcome that, but we don't know what might come down the road. There is also speculation that it's not owned by Troy Studios in full. It's my belief, and I could be proved wrong, that only one Director was involved in buying this.'
Cllr Steven Matthews said the elected members had already gave a commitment to ensure the land remains zoned for film use in all local area plans.
However, he warned that there were other avenues open to the development of the site which could avoid having to pass through the normal planning process.
'The land is now privately owned. At the moment, if you are looking to build a large number of units you can go directly to An Bord Pleanála, who can overturn a Local Area Plan. We have done as much as we can by refusing to rezone but that doesn't mean it is cast in stone.'
Cllr Pat Vance expressed disappointment in Minister Simon Harris' lack of involvement on the matter.
'I am amazed. We have a Minister of Health involved in everything else, writing to everyone about St Paul's, yet when you have something involving hundreds of jobs and millions to the Wicklow economy, you hear nothing from him, at least not as far as I am aware.'
He also expressed fears over jobs being filtered out of Bray to Limerick.