The scene in the film where Thanet gets a £150 million film production complex and 2,000 jobs on a mothballed airport site? Lights, Camera, Apathy. It just got edited out by studio bosses.
About a year ago rumour reached me that a businessman had written to TDC Council proposing a large film production complex on the former Manston Airport site. He had an option on 180 acres of the site and industry support. I thought it was an excellent idea, if fairly inchoate, and said as much here.
The plans entailed film and TV studios with sound stages ranging from 10,000 to 60,000 sq. ft, film/TV production offices with post-production/audio /editing suites and more. There is growing demand for film studio space in the UK . As consultants EKOS told the Scottish government recently:
UK Government tax incentives for mobile production from film into TV and video games has created a surge of interest from international TV productions… ongoing growth in demand for filmed content [is] driving demand for studio space, currently scarce within the UK and many parts of Europe.
There is also considerable support nationally for this industry sector: the British Film Industry (BFI) alone ploughs over £26 million of Lottery funds annually into supporting film development, production and distribution activity in the UK – with the budget set to rise to £30m by 2017.
As such, it is pretty disappointing to hear how this potential opportunity has unravelled. Not a single councillor replied to this businessman expressing interest or support. As he told me in an email:
Only one councillor contacted me to say what a good idea! We [have] decided that we could not afford to waste any more time or lose any more investors through TDC and last month I wrote to the owners of Manston Airport sadly withdrawing our interest in locating the project there as a direct result of the lack of interest and any support from Thanet District Council and their Planning team.
In complete contrast to the horrendous experience with Thanet DC and Kent CC, I am now in the process of locating the project at a very large ex RAF Airbase in Oxfordshire (under an hour from London) where within a few days of my [expressing] interest we received tremendous support from the owners, CEO of the local District Council and councillors at executive and committee level who immediately arranged for their Head of Planning to meet with me and the owners of the site.
They were very keen to have us locate there and the Head of Planning and Economic development has immediately offered us the full support of their team. The owners of the airbase — a very successful development group — were extremely positive and following a meeting last week with the Head of Planning and the groups development director they have allocated the 180 acres we need and within a week have advised their planning consultants to prepare a pre application for planning for the Film City Project. The responsibility for my decision to relocate the 2000 job £150m Film City Project elsewhere, is entirely due to Thanet DC.
Thanet overall as a Local Authority Area is among the top 10% most deprived in the entire country. Yet its council has expressed absolutely no interest whatsoever in a potential major employer and source of investment, in order to pursue the chimera of a CPO on an airport that has never, ever turned a net profit despite local authority support.