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Lights, camera, action: work begins on £20m film studio as major productions flock to Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Published 22/04/2016

An artist’s impression of the new film studios
An artist’s impression of the new film studios

Work has started on a major £20m film studio for Belfast to help meet burgeoning demand for movie and TV productions.

The North Foreshore Film Studios will create up to 200 jobs during construction.

The project is being overseen by Belfast Harbour, covering around seven acres on the soon-to-be redeveloped Giant's Park, a 340-acre former landfill site.

Newry company O'Hare & McGovern has been awarded the contract to begin building the two film studios and a sound stage, along with workshops and production space.

Northern Ireland's credentials in the TV and film business have risen steadily in recent years.

Dark fantasy epic Game of Thrones continues to be part-filmed here, while other productions shot at the existing studios include Your Highness and 2007's City of Ember, starring Bill Murray.

Belfast Harbour's chief executive Roy Adair said the organisation had "worked extremely hard to bring this project from plans to reality".

"Northern Ireland's production industry has gone from strength to strength in recent years with major shows such as Game of Thrones," he added.

"In the past two years, the industry has generated an estimated £137m of spend in the local economy. To keep pace with demand, we identified the opportunity to develop new film studios."

In February, there was an 11th hour spanner thrown in the works for the project, when Titanic Quarter Ltd objected to the development just as it was about to be given the green light for planning approval.

Titanic Quarter is already home to Titanic Studios, while Titanic Quarter Ltd has planning permission for new studios.

Belfast Harbour commenced High Court proceedings against Titanic Quarter Ltd in a dispute about a "master agreement" for development schemes.

However, planning permission for the new studio was granted.

Eamon O'Hare, managing director of O'Hare & McGovern, said the project was "one of the most exciting developments ever undertaken by the company".

"It's another showpiece project, which, when completed, will be the landmark building on Belfast Lough's foreshore," he added.

And Richard Williams, chief of Northern Ireland Screen, said: "It is well known within the global screen industry that the demand for studio space currently outstrips supply in the UK.

"We are delighted that the proposed new (developments) on the north foreshore are going ahead and with our recent successful track record in attracting large-scale film and TV production to Northern Ireland."

The studios are being designed by Belfast-based RPP Architects.

The latest development for Belfast Harbour will be one of several new uses for the north foreshore site.

It is also going to become the home of Giant's Park - an ambitious £9.5m renewables sector business park, which is expected to create 400 jobs.

Belfast Telegraph

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