Belfast is setting its sights on becoming the Hollywood of Europe.
The thriving Northern Ireland film industry has received another boost with the announcement of a £14m extension of the Titanic Studios in Belfast.
The environment minister has said the addition of two new film studios will put the city on the map as one of Europe's largest film production locations.
The offering at the creative hub, where the globally successful HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones is filmed, is about to get even better after Mark H Durkan confirmed yesterday that planning approval had been granted for an additional 100,000 square foot of facilities.
No objections were received to the application submitted in December by Titanic Quarter Limited. It will almost double the existing production space at the impressive Titanic Studios, which incorporates Harland and Wolff shipyard's former Paint Hall building.
Work will start soon on two new film studios comprising 43,000sqft of space, 23,000sqft of film production workshops, office space, installation of a roof-mounted solar panel system and car parking.
"This planning application for two film studios and supporting facilities would, if constructed, put Belfast on the map as one of Europe's largest film production locations," Mr Durkan said.
"The use of sustainable technology with the roof-mounted solar panel system is also to be welcomed.
"These photovoltaic roof-mounted panels convert solar radiation into electricity which reduces costs – a win-win for business and the environment.
"Developments like this are leading the way in helping Northern Ireland move towards a low-carbon economy.
"It is my aim to ensure planning creates a better environment and a stronger economy. This development helps to do this."
Richard Williams, chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said the studios represented a global boost for the industry.
"As we move into a new phase of international activity, on the back of the new tax breaks for high-end television drama and animation, Northern Ireland Screen needs to be able to assure the global industry of our continued capability to house large-scale international productions," he said.
"There is no doubt that the demand for further studio infrastructure exists and the construction of more stages can only assist us with attracting further projects."
- Titanic Studios is set on an eight-acre site on the eastern bank of the River Lagan, Belfast
- It is currently home to the original Paint Hall studio and the Hurst and MacQuitty stages
- The studio contains four 90ft tall cells set out in a square and connected by an internal road and streets
- Each has one 3ft thick external wall that is a 75ft tall door
- None of the cell ceilings is external and the building is double-skinned to reduce noise pollution
- The facility also offers a suite of offices, toilets, workshops, a green room
- Two new film studios are also to be constructed on the site