Residents have their say on film studio plans

Plans for a new film studio backed by Titanic director James Cameron have been given the thumbs down by local residents.

In a parish poll, 85% of those who voted opposed plans to build Marlow Film Studios on greenbelt land near the Buckinghamshire town.

"This sends a clear message to councillors and to the developers," said a spokesperson for the campaign group Save Marlow's Greenbelt.

However, film studio chief Robert Laycock said turnout was low, and the poll was being used by groups to "suggest widespread opposition to our planning application".

James Cameron
Canadian film-maker James Cameron supports the proposed studios [Getty Images]

Eighteen per cent of the electorate turned out for the Marlow parish poll, with 1,730 people voting against Marlow Film Studios being built and 302 voting in favour.

The studio has said the studio, on the site of former gravel pits next to the A404 near Marlow, would generate £3.5bn per decade and create 4,180 jobs.

It has also outlined plans to invest more than £20m in roads and other public infrastructure.

In April, Cameron, who also directed Aliens, wrote a letter to Buckinghamshire Council telling them how he was impressed with the plans for the studio, which he said could be a base for his company Lightstorm 3D and could also host a training centre.

He told the council he hoped the studios would be the "next evolution of 3D storytelling".

Following the poll on 9 May, Mr Laycock said: "The low turnout, and the limited numbers who voted against the questions on the parish poll, do not suggest a high level of public opposition."

He added that independent polling carried out over the last week indicated that "over 80% of local residents within a five-mile radius of the studios surveyed support the film studios".

"They know the benefits our proposals will bring to the local area in terms of long-term careers, jobs and economic prosperity."

He added the council had received 4,982 letters in support of the application and 2,792 against.

Buckinghamshire councillors deferred their decision on the studio so they could consider greenbelt and road issues, despite the site being recommended for refusal by planning officers.

Save Marlow's Greenbelt said the results of the poll were revealing "ahead of the strategic sites committee meeting on 30 May".

Joy Morrissey, the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, has also opposed the plans on three occasions because of her concerns for the greenbelt.

In a statement, the MP said she was pleased so many people had taken part in the parish poll.

"For over 2,000 residents to vote in such a small five-hour voting window, with no postal votes available, shows this is an important issue for the local community," she said.

"Eighty-five per cent of those residents voting to say they do not want the development to go ahead is a decisive message."

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