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Government empowers local leaders to turn the North East into Film and TV production powerhouse

15 March, 2024


Sunderland has welcomed the PM and Chancellor, after last week's Budget announcement which paved the way for a significant new film production studio in the North East, set to be of one of Europe's largest studio complexes. 

The PM and Chancellor met Sunderland City Council chief executive Patrick Melia, along with Fulwell 73 founder Leo Pearlman and Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland to learn more about FulwellCain's planned £450m Crown Works Studios on the banks of the River Wear.  

The studios are being delivered thanks to a deal between the North East Mayoral Combined Authority (NEMCA) and Government to bring forward a 'trailblazer deal'.  The deal, announced in the Spring Budget empowered local leaders with funding and tools to deliver local regeneration priorities.  Subject to business case, NEMCA intends to use £25m of this funding to remediate the prospective Crown Works Studios site, laying the ground for development of the studio facilities. 

Alongside this, government will work towards the designation of a specific 'growth zone', in which North East local authorities will be able to retain 100% of business rates growth for the next 25 years. Subject to business case, NEMCA plans to designate the prospective Crown Works Studios site as a 'growth zone'. This combination of capital funding and business rates retention will get the development off the ground in the short-term and ensure NEMCA and Sunderland City Council can continue to support the project in the long-term. 

The plans are being led by FulwellCain, a joint venture between Fulwell 73 and Cain International and backed by Sunderland City Council, to build a studio which will be one of the largest in Europe and will create over 8,000 jobs in the region.  

The plans will see a brownfield site on the banks of the River Wear become the beating heart of the region's creative economy. It is expected to transform the economy of the North East, spurring a creative industrial revolution and generating £336m Gross Value Added (GVA) a year for the regional economy. It will enhance the UK's offer to the global film and high-end TV industry, and enable the North East to play a far greater role in future growth. 

The North East is already a backdrop for major blockbusters - with Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Transformers all filmed in the region. The media courses available at the University of Sunderland will partner with CWS and other organisations to help develop the screen industries pipeline in the region.  

The creative industries are a British success story, growing at 1.5 times the rate of the wider economy over the last decade contributing £125 billion in GVA in 2022 and supporting over 2 million jobs. The UK is Europe's largest film and tv production centre and is second only to the US in total screen production output.  

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said:  

"We are proud as a council to have supported FulwellCain over the last few years as they have built the case for their game-changing Crown Works Studios in Sunderland.  In partnership with the six other local authorities of the region, we have made a deal with national Government that has enabled us to back these plans, because we absolutely believe in their ability to deliver huge social and economic advantages to the whole of the North East.  This is an exciting new chapter for Sunderland and the product of collaboration and commitment."

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 the success of this project."  
Councillor Amanda Hopgood, interim portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport ahead of the formation of a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority in May, and leader of Durham County Council, said: 

"Devolution brings with it the opportunity for local leaders to back projects that are regionally significant, directing trailblazer funding directly into the North East's priorities. 

"The Government's confirmation of our trailblazer paves the way for Fulwell 73 to push ahead with this ambitious project, unlocking £450m of private sector investment to turn this exciting vision into a reality.  We are proud to back Crown Works Studios, a project that brings the promise of thousands of new jobs and the opportunity to build a local supply chain that will support generations of people in this brilliant region."

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." 

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.