Key Themes FAQ

On site cafe

Isn’t the site being used for filming already?

The site has been used as a film studio for many years and the film studio use can lawfully operate within the permitted uses on site. However, the site is currently underutilised as a film production site, with existing buildings either vacant or partially occupied and with huge potential for refurbishment and redevelopment.

Our proposals respond to an acute shortage of high-quality, large-scale virtual production, film and digital content creation space and would breathe life back into this important and historical landmark.

This is designated as an industrial area – shouldn’t the site be used for industrial purposes?

The virtual production, film and digital content creation studios use is a production activity that falls within the range of use classes that are appropriate in industrial areas.  Both the Greater London Authority and Hounslow Council have recognised the potential of the creative sector to grow and provide jobs in this area and have designated the Great West Creatives Enterprise Zone.  Hounslow Council is keen to see a creative use on this site and the intended draft site allocation for Gillette in its forthcoming emerging plan is for ‘a major new creative hub drawing on its unique heritage to deliver flexible creative film, digital and media including studios and their supporting uses’.

Are other uses proposed besides virtual production, film, and digital content creation and production?

The buildings on the site will be used as sound stages (where the filming and content creation is done) and as workshops and offices used in connection with the productions. Whilst the intended draft site allocation in Hounslow’s forthcoming emerging plan identifies the potential for some residential use, this is not compatible with studio use. This is because of the security and privacy required to protect the integrity of the virtual production, film and digital content creation process, and the space required to create state-of-the-art studios that maximise the potential of the site.

What will happen to the listed Gillette factory building?

The former Gillette factory building is proposed to be retained and refurbished into predominantly office space, ancillary to the proposed studios.  External works will involve the repair and restoration of the building’s external envelope and architectural features if required.

It is necessary to create a new opening in the front elevation to be able to provide a level access to the office space, but the main stepped entrance will be retained and restored.  The main frontage onto Syon Lane and the two wings that create the U-shape building are of most historic interest.

We propose to demolish the central area of the non-original U-shape building, which is currently underutilised and erect a new sound stage building in this location, behind the historic building. The single storey working area to the rear of the front block has undergone significant changes and all the original interior elements and features associated with the manufacture of razor blades have been removed. The proposal is to replace this structure with two new sound stages.

What about other historic buildings on the site?

The other buildings on the site that contribute to its heritage significance, such as the Engineer’s House, the listed NatWest Bank, and the main part of the non-listed Campbells Building, are also proposed to be retained.

Four lamp standards and lanterns are also listed features. Key design elements of the new buildings and signage have been influenced by the art deco heritage along the Great West Road and by architectural details on the existing historic buildings.

How much more development will there be on the site?

The total amount of floorspace in the new development will be approximately the same as what is currently on site.  The big difference is that the development will offer the opportunity to remove tired and inefficient buildings in poor condition and introduce purpose-built sound stages and workshop spaces that are designed to meet the needs of a modern virtual production, film, and digital content creation studios, including the flexibility to accommodate new production technologies.

How tall will the buildings be?

The tallest new building proposed is the car park building at the northern end of the site adjacent to the Sky campus.  This would be approximately nine storeys.  As part of Hounslow Council’s work on the Great West Corridor Masterplan, it was identified that a building of up to 10 storeys could potentially be appropriate in this part of the site.  The height of the new sound stages is based on the internal head height space required for the creation of sets and filming. 

We think that the scale of these buildings fits comfortably within its context, including the historic buildings along the frontage of the site.  The planning application will include a series of townscape views, which show how the proposed buildings would look in the context of the existing buildings and the consented buildings on nearby sites.

How will the development be sustainable?

Existing buildings that can be refurbished to meet the requirements of state-of-the-art virtual production, film and digital content creation studios will be retained. If they can’t, the buildings will be demolished and replaced with new purpose-built sound stages.

We are proposing to retain approximately 70% of the existing built floor area. With the retained buildings, the development provides an opportunity to make them much more energy efficient, such as through the introduction of secondary glazing and insultation.  The proposed energy strategy for the new buildings will follow the energy hierarchy, including incorporating efficient building fabric and services, looking at the ability to connect to future heat networks, incorporating low carbon heating through the use of heat pumps, and maximising the provision of PV panels on the roofs of the buildings. 

The planning application will be supported by a suite of energy and sustainability assessments, including a Whole Life Carbon Cycle and Circular Economy Statement.

How many car parking spaces are proposed?

There are currently 413 car parking spaces on the site, along with spaces used for operational parking of larger vehicles.  Our initial estimates were that around 700 car parking spaces would be required for a studio of this scale and nature.  Through discussions with Transport for London and the London Borough of Hounslow, we have reduced this number down to 517 car parking spaces, along with an additional 56 operational parking for light goods vehicles and heavy goods vehicles.

We are committed to encouraging sustainable travel and reviewing parking provision in the future as trends change.  We are proposing that 52 of the parking spaces will be monitored and reviewed through the Travel Plan process.  The car park building will be designed with future flexibility to adapt to other uses.

Will there be an increase in traffic?

The nature of working patterns in the virtual production, film and digital content creation industry often involves early mornings, peaks and troughs in activity depending on the stages of production. This can result in the need to travel by car, but also that the impacts on the local road network are less concentrated around peak hours when the local network is at its busiest.  

We have assessed the impact of the proposed development on the local highway network.  Our assessment work identifies that the total traffic movements across the whole day are slightly higher with the proposed development.  However, in the peak hours of 8am-9am and 5pm-6pm, there would be an overall reduction in movements, with small increases at other times of the day when the network is less busy. We have undertaken junction capacity tests considering the traffic from the consented developments on the nearby Tesco and Homebase sites.  These indicate a ‘degree of saturation’ of less than 90% on all junctions, indicating that there would continue to be sufficient capacity and that the proposed development would not have a significant effect on the local network.

The development will seek to encourage use of walking, cycling and public transport through various measures and a travel plan.

Will there be public access to the site?

Due to the security and privacy considerations, and the access and operational delivery arrangements, it is not possible to provide routes and public spaces in the centre of the site.

However, we are looking to refurbish the NatWest building as a café, with the potential for public access.

Will there be jobs for local people?

Our estimates show that there could be around 2,000 people directly employed on the site, with a further 2,000 jobs supported in supply chain businesses and the local economy.

This will make a huge contribution to the ambitious job targets that Hounslow Council and the Greater London Authority have for the area.  There is a growing concentration of creative industries in this part of West London, and both the University of West London and West Thames College offer creative media courses.

We will be developing an Employment, Skills and Community Plan and will work collaboratively with the council to identify and promote opportunities.  This could involve locally advertising opportunities for jobs and supply chain services, as well as ongoing engagement with local schools and higher education providers to promote awareness and skills in the creative media sector.

How will we use your data?

Your enquiries and comments will be analysed by WSP. Copies of comments may be made available to the relevant planning authority so it can note your comments. No personal details will shared. Details will be held securely by WSP in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018, will be used solely in connection with this project, and any subsequent planning applications and, with the exception of the above, will not be passed to any third parties. WSP will only keep your details until potential planning permission for this application has been implemented.