By Gordon Deegan
Joe and Shelley O’Connell’s Ashford Studios plan a huge extension that has the potential to create 1,500 movie-related jobs. It involves four new film studios of 40,000 sq ft each, a TV studio, offices and administrative space.
In a bid to underpin the development of a TV and movie cluster, the plan also includes a visitor centre and parking for 100 coaches and 650 cars. The first phase of the development was completed in May 2012. Since then, it has produced the Vikings series, employing 450 people during filming.
But Wicklow Co Council last year put further extension plans on hold, expressing concerns over the project. Ashford Studios has in recent days lodged an Environmental Impact Statement in a bid to address those concerns.
The EIS states that Phase One is occupied by Vikings for eight months of the year with the studios being vacant for the remaining four months. It states that the second phase of the project would allow “for [a] constant roll out of the studios” and would stop a “drop in revenues of the management company and a drop in activities in the nearby town of Ashford”. Doing nothing would mean that Ashford Studios would stagnate, it claims.
“The need for film studios in Ireland is increasing. The first phase of the studio at Ballyhenry have proven to be successful. The lack of production turnover in the studio has demonstrated the need to expand the current facilities,” it said. A decision on the application, which is opposed by two local residents, is due in March.