A new £19m film studio development for Belfast is expected to get the green light tonight in a major boost for Northern Ireland's burgeoning movie business.
North Foreshore Film Studios are being built by Belfast Harbour, and will cover around seven acres on the soon-to-be redeveloped 340-acre former landfill site.
The development will feature a 66,000sq ft film studio and sound stage, along with a 23,000sq ft workshop and 32,000sq ft production space.
The grand and ambitious proposals are expected to get the go-ahead from Belfast City Council's planning committee this evening.
Planners have said that “given the overall size of the site within North Foreshore and the industrial/commercial nature of the immediate surrounding context it is considered that the design, scale and layout of the proposed scheme are considered to be acceptable”.
North Foreshore Film Studios are being designed by Belfast-based RPP Architects.
Some of the biggest shows have already used Northern Ireland as their backdrop.
That includes dark fantasy epic Game of Thrones, which used the current Titanic Studios for much of its filming, along with locations across Northern Ireland.
The new North Foreshore Studios will face competition from the already established TV and film studios in Belfast.
Titanic Quarter is already home to Titanic Studios, while Titanic Quarter Ltd has gained planning permission for new studios.
It’s planning another film unit on former industrial land located across Queen’s Road from the existing Titanic Studios. They will be designed by Todd Architects.
But the city’s Harbour Commissioners have commenced High Court proceedings against Titanic Quarter Ltd in a dispute about a “master agreement” for development schemes.
Land in the area is owned by Belfast Harbour Commissioners, and is subsequently leased out to Titanic Quarter Ltd for development projects under the master agreement.
A dispute has emerged over the interpretation of that contract.
But Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said the new film studios would be a much-needed “shot in the arm” for the film industry here.
“I like the team behind it, and they want it built and to be in there in 12 months,” he said.
“That would send out a strong position about new investments in the future.
“Hopefully it gets the green light and I look forward to more major production companies (coming here).”
The film and creative industries are the “future of Northern Ireland”, according to Ni21 MLA Basil McCrea, who sits on Stormont’s culture committee.
“It’s all about creating a hub, and you need critical mass. The more you have, the more you can get,” he said.
At the end of last year, tenders were issued to find contractors to build part of the new studio development.
It’s understood the entire project is now worth around £19m.
According to a design statement included as part of the planning process, the building will have a “striking” look.