The proposed north extension to the Sky Studios Elstree has been blocked by councillors over green belt concerns.

A campaigner has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the decision will “preserve the uniqueness” of Well End village outside Borehamwood.

But the TV giant has said it remains “committed” to expanding the studio site, which has hosted production teams working on Wicked starring Ariana Grande and Paddington in Peru – the third film in the series with Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw.

Sky completed work on its south studios in 2023 and applied for permission for a 71,777 square metre extension to the north, between Rowley Lane and the A1 Barnet Bypass.

Watford Observer: This CGI shows how the current Sky Studios Elstree development would have looked after the 'North' expansion towards Well End.This CGI shows how the current Sky Studios Elstree development would have looked after the 'North' expansion towards Well End.

At a meeting on Thursday, March 21, Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning committee voted to refuse permission for Sky Studios Elstree North six votes to five.

“It just felt like everything was being destroyed and we were going to lose the uniqueness of the area, and the benefits it gives the people of Borehamwood,” said Well End campaigner Julia Dunsford after the vote.

She said: “Sky there, as it is, is fantastic. We’ve always said Sky is fantastic on its own, as long as it stayed there and we didn’t want it to come any more, because it really starts to encroach on our lives.

“Well End is a beautiful place. It’s got a lovely country pub. It’s where people from Borehamwood go in the summer.

“There are so many studios going up, a lot of new ones – Sunset in Waltham Cross, Warner Bros Studios Leavesden which is expanding.

“Why does Sky need to go on the green belt?”

Ms Dunsford added: “With the world in crisis, saving the natural world is crucial and it should never be destroyed for corporate profit.

“Once the green belt is gone, it is gone forever.”

At the meeting, planning lawyer Tim Taylor spoke on behalf of the objectors: “Sky’s rationale, explained in the planning statement, is that this site is ‘the only location which can accommodate additional filming activities given the synergies that will be created with the adjacent’ studios.

“Sky says that because of these synergies, the green belt test of ‘very special circumstances’ will be met.

“It is the second of their three limbs for claiming very special circumstances. Yet Sky has not considered any alternative locations – none.”

Sky’s planning statement set out a series of claims to argue the firm’s application met the “very special circumstances” bar for green belt building.

Watford Observer: CGI showing what an expanded Sky Studios Elstree complex would have looked like.CGI showing what an expanded Sky Studios Elstree complex would have looked like.

Its planning team wrote that demand for UK studio stage space will surpass six million square foot (557,418sqm) by 2027.

They claimed the site would create 4,300 full-time jobs throughout the UK including 1,580 full-time jobs in Hertsmere.

Spectators who attended the meeting met this claim with shouts of “bla, bla, bla” and “cleaners”.

Sky’s team added the site would support a £492m gross value-added contribution to the UK’s economy.

“It would not be commercially or operationally viable for Sky to develop the Sky Studios Elstree North scheme on an independent site in the UK,” they wrote.

“As such and given the identified global demand for film and television studio space, in the absence of the proposed development, Sky and NBC Universal would be compelled to look to locate outside the UK to meet this need should permission for Sky Studios Elstree North not be granted.”

Watford Observer: A CGI of the approved south studios site.A CGI of the approved south studios site.

Conservative councillor Brett Rosehill (Aldenham East), who sits on the planning committee, said approving permission for the built Sky Studios Elstree South site in July 2020 was a “proud moment”.

Cllr Rosehill added: “I’m not doubting Sky’s amazing credentials in terms of the commitment to net zero and sustainability.”

He said: “This is prime green belt land and has a much worse impact on local residents in terms of the proximity.

“These local residents pride themselves on the habitats and nature in that area.”

Liberal Democrat committee member Cllr Maxie Allen (Bushey Park) said: “I think it could be quite strongly argued that with this extension of Sky, that in some respects, the village of Well End as its own entity would cease to exist.

“The encroachment of Sky almost into Well End itself, Well End as a separate village and entity from Borehamwood would, you could strongly argue, be no more.

“That is the definitional and strategic importance of this piece of green belt.”

Cllr Allen, who has worked on TV programmes including Come Dine With Me and Antiques Road Trip, said: “I want to go back to jobs and job creation. Ultimately, I think that is the primary equation here.

“Very special circumstances rest upon the economic benefit as proposed here in the form of jobs.”

He said: “To put it flippantly, I’m a TV director. If they’re making the new Star Wars film there, they’re not going to hire me to direct it because I happen to live around the corner.

“You can see the wider point.”

Labour cllr Helen Green (Bentley Heath and The Royds), who also sat on the committee, said: “I’m struck by the fact that Sky are proposing to put in quite a big development, which to me says the future of their industry and the future of their business is here.

“To me, that’s a wonderful thing. I’m also struck by the economic benefits that we see already from them being here.

“The development would build on that. Apparently, there are thousands of people that deliver pizzas here.

“The impact on the economy I don’t think is just about jobs, it’s about the amount of money they invest in our borough, the good standing that we have in the industry.

“I do accept this involves building on green belt, which is always difficult.

“But I like the idea of Sky learning from their past mistakes when they developed and really putting a lot of thought into what this development could be like for them and for us.”

Sky hit national headlines in the Daily Star when residents told the newspaper about an “obstacle course” outside their homes because building contractors parked their vehicles on nearby residential streets.

Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning staff had concluded Sky’s proposal met national and local planning rules for building.

They said although the development would have been “inappropriate development” in the green belt, with considerable harm to its “openness”, decision-makers should give “very substantial weight” to the economic impacts of an expanded studios site.

A Sky spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the committee went against the advice of their officers and their recommendation to approve our planning application.

“Before moving forward, we will be taking some time to assess our next steps and will engage further with the council, planning officers and community stakeholders.

“We remain committed to delivering our plans for Sky Studios Elstree North which will deliver significant local and national benefits, including creating 2,000 new jobs and unlocking £2billion of production investment in the UK.”