April 18, 2024

Government Gives Green Light to turn the North East into ‘film and TV production powerhouse’.

LONDON, UK - Apr 19, 2017: Entrance door of 10 Downing Street in London official residence of First Lord of the Treasury, headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and office of Prime Minister

During a trip to the University of Sunderland this Friday, March 15, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have announced a £37 million injection of funds along with new authority for the North East Mayoral Combined Authority to spearhead the development of one of the largest film production hubs in Europe, located in Sunderland.

Recently, the government revealed a pioneering “trailblazer” devolution deal with the North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) as a feature of the Spring Budget. This deal is designed to grant regional leaders both the financial means and the necessary tools to prioritize and execute local rejuvenation efforts. This initiative is a step towards the government’s broader strategy to elevate the entire North East, giving the area the capability to effectuate lasting improvements and brighter prospects for its inhabitants.

Part of this initiative is the allocation of £37 million for the transformation of brownfield plots and the expedited advancement of regional initiatives. NEMCA plans, contingent upon a solid business proposal, to direct £25 million of this allocation towards the remediation of the Crown Works Studios site, setting the foundation for the studio’s development.

In concert with this, the government is set to establish a designated ‘growth zone’ where local authorities in the North East can retain the entirety of the business rates growth for the next quarter-century. With the business case approval, NEMCA intends to nominate the proposed Crown Works Studios location as such a ‘growth zone’. This financial support, paired with the ability to retain business rates, is aimed at kick-starting the project in the near term while ensuring long-term support from NEMCA and the Sunderland City Council.

This project has unleashed a monumental £450 million investment from FulwellCain, a joint venture supported by Sunderland City Council, between Fulwell 73 and Cain International, to construct Crown Works Studios (CWS), poised to be one of Europe’s premier studios, generating over 8,000 jobs locally.

CWS will transform a former industrial site on the River Wear into a hub of creative industry. It is anticipated to significantly boost the North East’s economy, catalyzing a creative industrial surge and contributing an estimated £336 million in Gross Value Added (GVA) annually to the area. This venture will not only augment the UK’s presence in the international film and TV production market but will also enhance the North East’s contribution to the sector’s future expansion.

The North East has served as the scenic backdrop for major cinematic productions including titles like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Transformers. In collaboration with CWS and other entities, the media courses at the University of Sunderland will play a crucial role in nurturing the screen industries’ talent pipeline within the region.

The UK’s creative industries are a national triumph, expanding at a pace one and a half times faster than the broader economy over the past decade, contributing £125 billion in GVA in 2022, and supporting over 2 million jobs. The UK stands as Europe’s foremost film and TV production center and ranks second globally in total screen production output.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

As we have seen from the UK’s success during awards season, our home grown talent is testament to the UK’s reputation as a film, tv and arts superpower.

Through our billion pound package of support for the creative industries, and by empowering local leaders and deepening devolution across England, we are backing British business, growing the economy, and developing the Oscar winners of tomorrow.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said:

Our creative industry doesn’t just win awards – it’s worth over £125bn to our economy and supports over 2 million jobs. That’s why we’re continuing to back it with a £1 billion package of tax reliefs – and it’s fantastic to see this investment in Sunderland which will help nurture the next generation of local talent, also helping to grow our economy.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:

We’re sticking to our plan to grow the creative industries by a further £50 billion and add another 1 million jobs by 2030. We are one step closer to making that ambition a reality thanks to government action unlocking millions of pounds for Crown Works Studios in Sunderland.

Britain’s legendary film studios, like Pinewood, Leavesden and Elstree, are the envy of the world. Filmmakers are increasingly choosing the UK over Hollywood, and the benefits of these productions will be felt right across the country, with well paid, meaningful jobs and a boost to the local economy.

Leo Pearlman, Managing Partner of Fulwell 73:

Crown Works Studios will help transform Sunderland into a global hub for big budget film and TV production – and enable the North East to play a leading role in our most exciting sector.  This funding will kick start a project that will eventually bringing an annual economic boost of £336m to the North East – while also enhancing the UK’s studio capacity to help us remain globally competitive.

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland said:

We are very pleased to welcome the Prime Minster and the Chancellor to the University and to be able to demonstrate the excellent teaching and facilities on offer for students preparing for jobs in the creative sector.

For our award-winning film production students – a product of courses regarded as some of the best in the county – the Crown Works project represents a chance to fulfil their potential while remaining in, and contributing to, the North East.

This ambitious undertaking will require roles from across a range of sectors. We will continue to work with local government and the team behind Crown Works, to develop a skilled workforce to maximise thesuccess of this project.”

Last week’s Budget for Long Term Growth set out a number of measures that will grow the economy – including the media package – and deliver a brighter future for the country.

The full creative industries package announced at Spring Budget, which will catalyse growth in this sector, comprises:

  • A new UK Independent Film Tax Credit at a rate of 53% for films with budgets under £15m which meet the conditions of a new British Film Institute test;
  • 40% relief on gross business rates bills for eligible film studios in England, until 2034;
  • A 5% increase in tax relief for UK visual effects costs in film and high-end TV under the AVEC.

Last summer, the government set out ambitious plans to maximise the potential of the creative industries by growing the industry a further £50 billion in GVA and supporting an additional 1 million jobs by 2030. In total the government has supported the sector with £310 million in government spending since the 2021 Spending Review.

In 2022, the UK saw a record £6.27 billion generated through production spend in the UK, of which £5.37 billion – 86% – was inward investment.

This announcement shows that, when Government gives them the tools, local leaders can drive growth, boost industry and create new jobs for their communities. Devolution is at the heart of our plans to increase economic growth and level up the whole country. Since publishing the Levelling Up White Paper in February 2022, we have agreed 13 new devolution deals – with over 64% of England’s population now covered by a devolution deal – and deepened the powers of six our major city-regions, including the North East.

The government’s commitment to delivering economic growth across the region is evidenced by this investment, alongside Nissan’s announcement in November 2023 that they will build two new electric car models in the UK, in Sunderland.