Harry Potter's GREEN BELT battle: Fury at Warner Bros expansion plan

Harry Potter and the battle for the GREEN BELT: Fury over Warner Bros’ plans for huge 1.3 hectare expansion of its UK HQ including 11 new sound stages as residents fear it will ‘destroy’ local environment

  • Residents’ fury over Warner Bros Studio’s 1.3hectacre plans to expand Herts HQ
  • Sound stages, production buildings and a 2,500 capacity car park are mooted 
  • Locals in leafy village of Leavesden hit out at the ‘inappropriate’ development 

The studio makers behind Harry Potter and James Bond are locked in a furious planning battle with neighbours who say the proposed expansion of the Warner Bros’ Studio would ‘destroy’ the surrounding lush countryside.

Locals in the leafy village of Leavesden were outraged after plans to expand the film giant’s Hertfordshire HQ to include 11 new sound stages, four production buildings and multiple three-floor workshops were submitted to Watford Borough Council.

The vast planning application filed on March 11 includes designs for buildings to reach as high as 72ft, a new roundabout and multi-storey car park with 2,500 spaces.

If it is given the green light, work on the extra extension is expected to start construction later this year and finish in 2025. 

But residents who live near the 80-hectacre site, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year, warned the ‘inappropriate’ plans could ‘obliterate’ existing green belt land. 

The Chiltern Society, made up of more than 7,000 members has also objected along with environmental charity CPRE Hertfordshire. 

Locals in the leafy village of Leavesden were outraged after plans to expand the film giant’s Hertfordshire HQ to include 11 new sound stages, four production buildings and multiple three-floor workshops were submitted to Watford Council

The Hertfordshire studio, pictured, is a former World War II plane factory and was bought by Warner Bros. in 2010 and refurbished into a state of the art filming location

In a letter submitted to Three Rivers District Council’s planning department on behalf of 40 households, the group says Warner Bros successful bid for temporary permission for the backlot was ‘inadequately’ challenged by the council and claim, one year on, they see a ‘horrendous blot on the landscape’.

The group said it does not believe ‘very special circumstances’ have been met to permanently build over the green belt and have called on a ‘significant’ number of trees to be planted to screen the development if it does go ahead.

The studios – where all the Harry Potter franchise as well as some of the James Bond and Batman movies were filmed – were converted from an aircraft factory and airfield.

The former Leavesden Aerodrome, which was a centre of British aircraft production during World War II, is surrounded by green belt land between Watford and Abbots Langley.

It has since been the setting for Jason Bourne and Sherlock Holmes flicks, plus Oscar-winning Inception, Darkest Hour, and Bohemian Rhapsody films.

Other concerns raised in planning objections include the ‘immense’ impact the scheme could have on traffic.

In addition to buildings used for filming, there is a plan for a multi-storey car park – with around 2,500 new spaces in total at the site, on land known as the Island site.

A pedestrian bridge would be created to link the green belt Island Site to the main studio site with a new roundabout also planned close to the A41.

One comment submitted by a resident in Leavesden states Warner Bros will ‘lose the support of what has largely been a very accepting and supportive local community’ with this proposal.

One resident said of the potential noise pollution: ‘Should the proposed planning permission be granted for permanent use of the backlots on green belt the use will subject my family to constant noise intrusion.

‘When the sets are being built/taken down and earth works in progress we are subjected, in particular, to the noise of reversing bleepers from plant and machinery all day.

‘If permanent planning permission is granted there is no green belt break and the whole area is just becoming industrial. I believe this goes against the very reason the green belt was instigated.’

The Hogwarts Express at the hugely-popular Warner Bros Studio Tour in Hertfordshire

Diagon Alley at the Warner Bros Studio Tour which attracts up to 6,000 visitors a day

Natural England, the Environment Agency and Abbots Langley Parish Council have not raised objections, although the latter said it wants council officers to be aware of concerns raised by others in the consultation.

Warner Bros declined to respond to comments made by residents, but Emily Stillman, senior vice-president at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, said previously: ‘Since Warner Bros Studios Leavesden opened in 2012, we have continued to reinvest in the studio and tour facilities, creating two world-class businesses at the heart of the local community.

‘At a time when the UK film and TV industry is flourishing, demand for quality production space has never been greater.

‘Our ambition is to invest further in our studio to meet the increasing demand from productions, bringing more jobs and economic benefits to the area, whilst also continuing to improve our local environment through green space and ecological improvements.’

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