13 August 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network

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Ashford Studio Owner To Independently Fund €90 Million Studio Expansion
26 Mar 2018 : Nathan Griffin
Ashford Studios
Following the announcement last week that Ashford Studios would be granted planning permission for its long awaited studio expansion, owner and Wicklow entrepreneur, Joe O’Connell has insisted that he will carry out the studio expansion himself without the need for outside investment, if necessary.

Although talks are said to have taken place with a number of potential suitors for co-investment in O’Connell’s planned expansion of the studio, no known deals have been made following the granting of planning permission by Wicklow County Council last week.

Speaking about the subject with the Sunday Independent, spokeswoman Shelley Hargadon said:

"We won't rule out anything, because the permission is for 10 years and the expansion is likely to be done in a number of phases. Building on the success of Vikings, which is currently using all our existing infrastructure, combined with funding from our group of businesses, we will finance the next phase of expansion ourselves,"

Ashford Studios was said to have turned a profit of €1.59m in 2016 according to recent reports, which also estimated the studio had a cash pile of €2.37m. O'Connell’s other business ventures are also said to be a source of revenue in which the entrepreneur wishes to pool from.

"Film and TV production is temporary, so there is financial risk regarding investment versus a return. This makes funding particularly challenging. Raising capital through banks, for example, is difficult for this reason. Our options are further limited as the project cannot be state assisted under EU law, which ensures compliance with fair competition in each country," Hargadon added.

As outlined in the Environmental Impact Statement issued to the Wicklow County Council in January, the second phase of the studios development was crucial to the Studios’ continued growth with ‘phase one’, which saw Ashford open its doors to History’s ‘Vikings’ in 2012,  no longer sustainable to host other projects alongside the large-scale drama series.

‘Vikings’, which is currently filming its sixth season, occupies the entire Ashford Studio space for eight months of the year – leaving the studio with ‘Valley Periods’ of little to no production taking place in the subsequent four months due to time restraints on production turnarounds.

Outlining the need for the expansion back in January, Ashford’s EIS Document states:

"(Phase One) is not a sustainable rhythm and activities can't be rolled out in this manner,(Phase Two) Allows for constant roll-out of the studios and prevents a drop in revenues of the management company and a drop in activities in the nearby town of Ashford".

Furthermore, the EIS report argued that a decision against the proposed expansion would see Ashford Studios’ progress and development as an attractive film location internationally, stagnate:   

"The second phase allows for continual production of film making without valley periods. The need for film studios in Ireland is increasing... The lack of production turnover in the studio has demonstrated the need to expand the current facilities".

The €90 million granted proposal, which will see the creation of four new film studios in Wicklow, is expected to create up to 1,500 film and television sector jobs, with plans set to include the construction of four new 40,000sq ft. film studios.

The plans also include a television studio, studio offices, a visitor centre and an expanded car park intended to include over 600 car and 100 bus spaces.  


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