A delegation representing Wicklow County Council, and the Oireachtas members for the County met with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Ms Mary Mitchell O’Connor, officials from the Department and representatives of Enterprise Ireland to discuss concerns about the sale of Ardmore Studios.
Questions had been raised by the elected members and by the Oireachtas members for Wicklow, arising out of concerns surrounding the sale as a going concern and that according to an RTE commentator, who had sight of the prospectus, the site was described in part of the prospectus as “prime residential land in South Dublin” .
Following discussions with the Minister and her officials, it was confirmed that the lands are zoned for film use. The members of Bray Municipal District and in fact all of the members of Wicklow County Council are fully supportive of this zoning remaining in place. However the members would like to see a “belt and braces” approach taken and sought assurances from the Minister that the studios will indeed be sold as a going concern to an established player in the audio visual sector.
Mr Bryan Doyle, Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council, welcomed the Minister’s recognition of the importance of Ardmore Studios to County Wicklow and indeed to the Mid East Region and her acknowledgement that the development of the film industry is a key pillar of the Action Plan for Jobs for the Region. “Tourism and Film are among our strongest industries in County Wicklow and Ardmore is an important player in that regard,” he stated.
The members outlined the strategic importance of the film industry to Wicklow. Ardmore which was established in 1958 is an important part of the “brand”. Development of the audio visual industry is one of the 6 objectives listed in the County Wicklow Economic Think Tank Action Plan, these commitments to the industry are underscored in the Local Economic and Community Plan. One of the early actions by Wicklow County Council on foot of the Wicklow Economic Think Tank Action Plan, and in recognition of the significance of the industry and the need for studio space, was to introduce zero development contributions for film infrastructure.
As the Minister acknowledged, development of the audio visual industry is one of the primary objectives set out in the Action Plan for Jobs; Wicklow is the lead authority in this action area. The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Wicklow, together with the 4 other LEOs in the South East has initiated the South Eastern Creative Corridor project aimed at creating a vibrant, viable and growing AV cluster in the region.
The Minister was briefed on why Wicklow is a “Film Friendly County”, the Wicklow Film Commission was established in 1992 to provide assistance to film makers filming in the County. Wicklow has an excellent mix of versatile locations; urban, rural, mountain and seascapes all within minutes of the studios in the county. It is home to a large number of industry professionals, all highly trained and experienced crew who have made Wicklow their home. The importance of skills development in the industry and the links with colleges such as IADT and BIFE were also highlighted.
The Minister and officials explained that confidentiality is normal in relation to the sale of private shareholdings to allow the best possible deal to emerge. The Minister emphasised that the intention was that the studios would be sold as a going concern, and that any final decision would be taken in consultation with her Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs which has policy responsibility for the development of the film industry.
In that regard the Minister welcomed the firm commitment by the Council in relation to the continuation of zoning of the site for film production purposes.
The Minister went on to point out that the film industry is an important part of the Creative Ireland initiative launched this week by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, with Minister for Arts Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys. “Creative Ireland is our policy, I want that to happen,” she stated.