Bosses behind a project working to turn a 60-mile stretch of the Thames Estuary into a creative hub say their initiative is perfectly placed to meet the growing need for film studios in the UK.
According to a report by property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton, the lack of available film studio space in the UK could see major production companies go overseas as demand grows for new content from streaming services.
However, the next Netflix hit could be produced along the banks of the River Thames industry leaders have promised, with over 1.5m sq ft of film studio space and sound stages planned as part of major regeneration projects in Essex, Kent and London that will add billions to the economy and create thousands of jobs.
Meeting this challenge head-on is The Thames Estuary Production Corridor, a significant new programme to unite east London, the North Kent Coast and South Essex to create a world-class centre for creative and cultural production.
As part of a concerted drive to build on this the Creative Estuary project – a consortium of public sector and cultural organisations working to reimagine a 60-mile stretch of the Thames Estuary from Southend to Margate – is set on delivering a creative hub featuring film and TV studios to harness and propel the talent already blooming in the area.
Permission has now been granted for studios in Purfleet-on-Thames and Dagenham, with the progress discussed at a recent online event where a series of speakers pledged their commitment to the project.
Emma Wilcox, Project Director at Creative Estuary, said: “This report is an important one because it highlights the need we are working to meet. Across Essex and Kent from Southend to Margate, the Thames Estuary has untold creative potential. Our aim is to use culture as the catalyst for growth, helping to build a place for creative individuals and businesses to work, collaborate and grow.”
The report from Lambert Smith Hampton suggests that the UK could miss out on billions of pounds of spending in TV and film spending if production companies go overseas.
However, the vision for the Thames Estuary project is to turn the area into “one of the most exciting creative clusters in the world”, championing the next generation of creative talent and acting as a catalyst for growth.
The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham acquired a 23-acre site in Dagenham and gained planning permission in 2020 to deliver 12 sound stages, three acres of backlot, which is needed as part of the studio space, and the ancillary space and office space that goes with it. There are plans for another project in Barking for six sound studios.
As the project gathers momentum, key stakeholders met online to look at the progress already made – and what it will mean for creative industries in the future. Among them were representatives from Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited, Thames Estuary Growth Board and the London Collective.
The Thames Estuary Production Corridor Partners has recently selected a team to design and deliver the next phase of an ambitious project. The team will work closely with partners to identify potential development sites across London, Kent and Essex as well as creating action plans for the region’s high growth industries, fashion design and manufacturing and screen-based industries. The team will also develop feasibility studies for up to five flagship projects across the area.
Ken Dytor, a Non Executive Board Member at Thames Estuary Growth Board and Director and Founder of Purfleet Centre Regeneration Limited said: “Our ambition is to ensure the estuary becomes the UK’s largest and most significant concentration of creative production.”
Creative Estuary’s mission is to transform 60 miles of the Thames Estuary across Essex and Kent into one of the most exciting cultural hubs in the world.
Existing networks of creative businesses from design, gaming, fashion, filmmaking and music production are already making a significant and growing contribution to the Estuary’s economy.
Creative Estuary is supported by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), Kent and Essex County Councils, the Greater London Authority, 11 local authority areas represented by Greater North Kent Partnership and Opportunity South Essex, South East Creative Economy Network (SECEN), University of Kent, University of Essex, Locate in Kent, and cultural organisations Metal, and Cement Fields.
It is part of the Government endorsed Thames Estuary Production Corridor (TEPC) project, initiated by the South East Creative Economy Network and Greater London Authority.
View a short film which demonstrates the vision and ambition of the Creative Estuary project.