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FILM PLAN NEEDS A LION

02-09-2009

Lion

Imaginative proposals to relocate the powerhouse of the British film industry in the West Midlands have been greeted with a predictably blank response from MPs and regeneration quango Advantage West Midlands.

Stirrer blogger Jonathan Stuart-Brown has spotted a window of opportunity for the region following an application by the owners of Pinewood Studios to expand their operation in Buckinghamshire.

Stuart-Brown reckons the planning proposal, which encroaches on green belt land, will be rejected, opening the way for the prospect of a wholesale relocation – especially as Pinewood is a PLC whose shares are traded on the open market.

As we reported last week, the real value of snapping up Pinewood, which makes only a small annual profit, lies in the hundreds of production jobs it generates.

Birmingham MP John Hemming was sufficiently impressed to pass the idea on to AWM, but the response of chief executive Mick Laverty offered a routine rejection.

Laverty said, “Given our limited resources we can only support proposals that have a robust business plan…the proposal at this stage does not contain such information…

“Therefore Advantage West Midlands is unable to assist this project at this stage…”

No suggestion that AWM might actually help work up a business case you’ll notice – which Stuart-Brown, as an interested member of the public was never likely to create on his own.

He was simply offering them a good idea, with which they spectacularly failed to engage.

It was the same story from Business Minister Pat McFadden, replying to a letter sent on Jonathan’s behalf by fellow Wolverhampton MP Ken Purchase.

McFadden wrote, “Of course I would like to see more work and new industries in the area …but the location and any future development of the fil factories is a commercial matter for Pinewood-Shepperton PLC.

“If the company is interested in relocating they should contact Advantage West Midlands…”

Which of course takes us back to precisely where we started.

Now no one expects massive public investment on the scale needed to bring this scheme to the region to be granted on a whim. It requires creative planning, substantial investment, and determined leadership - but the benefits could be enormous.

If we can find billions for wars and bank bailouts, it simply doesn’t wash that we can’t afford this kind of scheme – all we lack is the balls and the brains.

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