A new €90 million expansion plan for Ireland's Ashford Studios
by Davide Abbatescianni
- The expansion plan is expected to create a number of film and television jobs, and provide domestic and international productions with four new film studios
A revolutionary expansion plan for Ashford Studios, located in County Wicklow, Ireland, has recently been proposed by Joe and Shelley O'Connell. The complex has been home to the Irish-Canadian TV series Vikings for the last four years and aims to become the centre of a new European “Silicon Valley” of film.
The ambitious plan proposed by Joe and Shelley O'Connell, however, has run up against the concerns of the local community. The investors have therefore lodged an environmental impact statement (EIS) with Wicklow County Council in order to restore trust and pinpoint the positive effects that the expansion plan may have on the local community. “Phase Two” of the expansion project, which follows the opening of the studio to the crew of Vikings (known as “Phase One”), is considered indispensable to prevent a drop in revenues for the film studio.
Apparently, the production rhythms imposed by Vikings are no longer sustainable, as its production occupies the entire complex for about eight months of the year, leaving the studio with substantial periods of little to no production taking place, owing to time restraints on production turnarounds. In this regard, the EIS document compiled by the investors remarks: “Phase One is not a sustainable rhythm, and activities can't be rolled out in this manner. Phase Two allows for constant rollout of the studios and prevents a drop in revenues of the management company and a drop in activities in the nearby town of Ashford. [...] The second phase allows for continual production of filmmaking without valley periods. The need for film studios in Ireland is increasing. [...] The lack of production turnover in the studio has demonstrated the need to expand the current facilities.”
The expansion plan requires a €90 million investment and will provide Ashford with four new 40,000 ft2 film studios, ready to host high-profile international and domestic productions. Furthermore, the project involves the opening of an additional TV studio, new offices, a visitor centre, a car park and other support spaces. Finally, the plan is expected to create around 1,500 new film and television jobs.
Nonetheless, the Council raised concerns back in July that the expansion could “significantly detract” from the landscape and set “an undesirable precedent for similar forms of highly inappropriate development”.
The final decision on the proposed plan will be made public in March. The verdict will certainly have a significant impact on the future of the local industry, as the expansion plan represents a unique development opportunity for the Irish film community.
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