Plans to rebuild the Leavesden Studios site and turn it into one of the world’s premier film production centres were approved by councillors tonight.
Warner Brothers, which has brought world-wide fame to the former aerodrome complex with its Harry Potter franchise, can now begin a programme of redevelopment worth an estimated £100million – creating hundreds of jobs and providing a boost to the local economy.
The company, which will now purchase the site outright and use it as its European filming base, will build new film stages, production and administration facilities.
It will also open a Harry Potter themed visitor attraction to cater for up to 5,000 visitors a day.
Three Rivers District Council’s development control committee finally approved the plans this evening, after ironing out most of the numerous queries and objections raised by local residents and councillors.
These concerns, most of which were raised at a similar meeting last month, included the potential impacts of increased traffic congestion, noise and light pollution.
Many residents also expressed alarm at the size and scale of the visitor attraction, which will offer tours of old Harry Potter film sets when production on the franchise comes to a conclusion later in the year.
Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst, who has represented residents’ concerns throughout the planning process, stressed the need for further road improvements before the site opens in 2012 but expressed his support for the scheme.
He also requested the formation of a discussion panel of residents, company officials, and councillors, to iron-out any future conflicts over car parking and noise pollution.
Council leader Ann Shaw said: “I welcome this application very much and we should be delighted that it has come forward to us.
“It’s not absolutely perfect but no application ever is.”
A Warner Brothers spokesman thanked the council and neighbouring residents for their continued support and understanding over the last ten years. They had, he said, helped bring the studio to global attention.
He added: “This is a fantastic opportunity to secure this investment for the future and I’m sure there will be a lot of economic benefits for Leavesden and world-wide acclaim for this project.”
The council’s decision – because of the scale of the application – must be formally approved by the East of England Development Agency before building work can begin. Given that there are no major objections to the scheme from statutory bodies, this should be a formality.