Well, people’s hopes and fears have been raised.
Yet it seems that it’s actually going to be poor planning, or more accurately a poorly prepared planning proposal, that may actually be the ultimate cause of the failure of the application to film scenes for the Ron Howard film RUSH on Blackbushe Airport.
This morning I attended the (made public at the last minute) public meeting with members of the Rush Films Ltd, production company, representatives of the British Film Commission and Screen South, local Town, District and County Councillors and other interested parties, including local residents and members of The Yateley Society and Hampshire Ornithological Society.
The meeting itself was a pretty good natured affair, with most people agreeing that it would good for the town in many ways if the proposal was to go ahead.
However it also became apparent that the film company, or their agent who submitted the planning application, had done themselves no favours at all, given the lack of integrity between the application itself and the increasingly accommodating supporting material provided in written and verbal form by the Location Manager, Jonah Coombes.
Mr Coombes, along with others present, made it clear that the film company were willing to accommodate in a variety of ways, the needs of their proposal for things like 24hr security at the set, and flexible access for local users during filming days. He said that “the more we are able to learn the more we can understand the needs and requirements” of both the site itself and the local community for whom it is valuable access land.
Another of the production team admitted however that she had nick-named the film “Rash”! This certainly seems to have been the case with their original plan to start work on set construction this coming Monday 9th Jan, which they admitted was obviously not possible given the constraints of the normal planning procedures.
The most obvious flaws however were highlighted by the fact that the application had not acknowledged the fact that
- the land was registered common land for which any ‘works and erections’ require the consent of the Secretary of State for the Environment – a fact highlighted by a commoner they seem to have failed to approach as a ‘stakeholder’
- that because of the fact that the land is closely associated with the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, and two SSSIs (Yateley Common Country Park and Castle Bottom) that Natural England as the statutory authority would need to approve the application pursuant to Article 6.3 of the EU Habitats Directive and its interpretation in English law
- and also since the land is ‘access land’, Natural England would need to approve the proposal pursuant to CROW (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000)
The production team seemed utterly surprised when they were told by a commoner that yesterday Natural England had posted a four page objection to their application on the planning portal, that could see the application being referred to the Secretary of State, causing several months delay to filming.
It rapidly became apparent that the ‘rush’ to complete filming to schedule would make such a delay a difficult hurdle to overcome, and that the filming of sequences proposed for Blackbushe may end up being transferred to Germany.
Since listening to all this, and meeting some lovely local people, I’ve inadvertently found myself talking about all this to both BBC Radio Solent (who recorded a short interview clip) and BBC Radio Surrey who want me to talk live on tomorrow morning’s Surrey Breakfast!
The BBC even got me to give them some of my photographs for their web article, in which it is obvious from Natural England’s press statement that if the proposal fails and film production goes elsewhere, it is the film company’s omissions and inaccuracies in their planning application that caused their own poor performance.