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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Curtain up on Valleywood studios
Lord Richard Attenborough

Work has begun on an ambitious 330m film studio complex in south Wales, following years of talks.

Construction on the first stage of the scheme, dubbed Valleywood, began on Wednesday with a ceremony at the site in Llanilid, Rhondda Cynon Taf.

The project, backed by actor and producer Richard Attenborough, has secured European Objective One funding.

The complex will create more than 1,700 jobs and is set to make south Wales a centre of the UK film industry.

The first phase of work at the 317-acre site will build five stages, which are due to open in February 2006.

Oscar-winning Lord Attenborough - star of films including Brighton Rock and Jurassic Park, and director of Gandhi and A Bridge Too Far - was at the former open cast site to mark the beginning of construction.

Plans
The complex is being built on a former opencast site

He said the first phase of five studios for making TV drama had been brought forward due to demand from the industry and the largest studios, capable of film-making will be built as the scheme develops.

Ever the director, Lord Attenborough started the bulldozers rolling with a cry of "action" at the edge of the site.

"It has taken a long time and there have been doubters, but that is why we wanted to announce, with the bulldozers working behind us, work has started," he added.

His speech followed those of politicians, local AM Janice Gregory and RCT council leader Russell Roberts as well as developers Stuart Villard from Westair and Ted Barnsdall from Cofton Ltd.

'Feature films'

All spoke of the long time it has taken to bring the "hugely complex" project to fruition and highlighted the possible benefits to an area which has been hit by recent job losses.

Lord Attenborough
Lord Attenborough refused to let the rain dampen his spirits

Weeks ago Japanese electronics giant Sony announced 650 job cuts as it closes its Bridgend plant quickly followed by news that American firm Wrigley's was to shut the Altoids sweet factory in the town, with the loss of a further 173 jobs.

Lord Attenborough, the chairman of Dragon International Studios, said work on the main studio complex would start before October 2005.

"This will mean that we are able to offer a whole range of further facilities to house television production, international feature films and multimedia businesses by the spring of 2007," he said.

Developer Stuart Villard said the work starting on Wednesday was just the starting point.

"I would like to emphasise that this facility, to be known as Dragon Plus, represents just the initial phase of a far larger major film studio development at Llanilid," he said.

Construction, which will also see a new motorway junction built, had been held up following the discovery of rare dormice on the site.

But it is finally going ahead after the confirmation that Objective One funding would be provided from the Welsh Assembly Government.

RCT leader Mr Roberts said he was "delighted" to be involved.

"This is one of the largest inward investment projects in Europe and we can all be proud that this scheme is being created here in Rhondda Cynon Taf," he said.

Welsh Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies said the studios would become "a major economic catalyst for the area".




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Lord Attenborough launch construction at Valleywood



SEE ALSO:
More delays for Valleywood studio
11 May 05 |  South East Wales
Mousehunt delays Valleywood
12 Jan 05 |  South East Wales
Valleywood work to start
27 Aug 04 |  Wales
Valleywood work imminent
20 Jan 04 |  Wales


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