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Planners signal green light for £45m film studio expansion at Belfast Harbour

LOCATION: A CGI impression of expanded studio space at Belfast Harbour.
Ryan McAleer

A £45 million film studio expansion at Belfast Harbour has secured the approval of planning officials.

The bid, which will quadruple the size of the existing operation at Giant’s Park, could facilitate up to 1,000 new creative industry jobs.

Another 200 jobs are expected to be involved in the construction process

Belfast Harbour, which is operated as a trust port, is behind the project.

Senior figures have indicated that the construction will go ahead, despite the impact of Covid-19.

Two weeks ago, port chairman David Dobbin said: “Providing demand continues to be as strong as we’re seeing now, I think we’ll be continuing with that project.”

Viking saga The Northman, staring Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard, is currently on site.

Production was halted a result of the coronavirus lockdown, but set building resumed at the end of June.

Director Robert Eggers said that most of the actors were on site when the lockdown came into effect. He has described the scale of the production as “huge”.

Harbour bosses anticipate filming will resume in the coming weeks.

The expansion plans provide for more than 346,000 square feet of additional production facilities which, when combined with phase one, would create the largest studio complex outside of the south east of England.

How phase two of the film studio expansion would look from distance.

Chief executive Joe O’Neill said that Belfast Harbour will take a market-based approach as to the phasing of the development

“We absolutely have to look at what the market demand looks like. If the market prospects appear strong to us, we are committed to even further investment in that sector.”

“It is not just of commercial benefit,” said Mr O’Neill, “But of huge socio-economic benefit, with very large numbers of jobs supported through the sector.”

A report produced for Belfast City Council’s planning committee estimates that the existing studios (phase one), which opened in May 2017, has generated £19m per year.

It estimates that phase two will double this to almost £40m per annum.

The report by city council planning officials ultimately recommends approval for Belfast Harbour’s application, with delegated authority given to the director of planning and building control to finalise the wording of any conditions.

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