A US TV studio has won permission to film a World War 2 drama in Swinley Forest.

The film studio will use a portion of the forest for use as a prisoner of war camp for the third series of a World War 2 drama.

The TV studio will build 15 temporary shacks on the land, 13 of which will be contained in a temporary fence.

The studio now has permission to use a portion of the forest for 12 months. The crew must return the land to its original state once the 12 month filming permission has expired.

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Filming itself is planned for 30 days, giving the studio breathing space to conduct reshoots and make sure the crew has properly deconstructed all structures before leaving.

It is unclear what the TV project is at the moment.

The plan (reference 20/01063/FUL) was granted by Bracknell Forest Council’s planning committee yesterday (Thursday, July 1).

The plan was stiffly opposed by the environmental group the Society for the Protection of Ascot & Environs (SPAE), who were alarmed when they saw foresters clearing woodland this February.

The SPAE complained about the forest being cleared and raised concerns over and public access to the forest.

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They raised suspicions that the forest was being cleared in anticipation of filming permission being approved. At the time, the Crown Estate which owns the forest and employs the foresters admitted the area was being cleared for the possibility of filming.

Bracknell planning officer Trevor Yerworth recommended that filming permission be refused, raising concerns about access to the site via the narrow private road of Buttersteep Rise, which will be used by the filming crew to access the prisoner of war camp location.

Bracknell News: The location of the filming site in red. A path will need to be cleared to take the crew and vehicles from Buttersteep Rise to the filming site.The location of the filming site in red. A path will need to be cleared to take the crew and vehicles from Buttersteep Rise to the filming site.

Officer Yerworth’s key objection was over the temporary structures being built in the forest, which is Green Belt land. Green Belt can only be built on in ‘very special circumstances’, and officer Yerworth argued the filming permission did not meet this requirement.

However, these objections were rebuffed by the planning committee.

Councillor Colin Dudley, the chairman of the committee, stressed that Swinley Forest is a commercial forest and is privately owned, meaning the public access that the people of the area have come to enjoy can be restricted. He said: “Unfortunately there is no public access to this land outside of what is allowed by the Crown Estate, and can remove that permission anytime.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Tony Virgo, in support of the plan, said: “I think this is a huge benefit for the borough as a whole, it will give a tremendous financial boost to this area.. it is a commercial forest.. I can’t see in my mind why we should refuse this.”

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The decision to allow the TV studio to film in the forest was granted at a physical meeting of the committee that met in a reduced capacity of five councillors at the council offices.

Although the committee usually has 18 members, the physical meeting was conducted with five members to comply with social distancing measures.

Officer Yerworth’s recommended refusal was voted down by two votes to three. As the chairman, Cllr Dudley had to put the recommendation to a vote, but only Cllr Michael Brossard, the vice chair of the committee, voted for the recommendation.

Cllr Dorothy Hayes MBE issued an alternative motion instructed Bracknell’s assistant director of planning to approve the application.

In the end, Cllrs Hayes, Dudley, Virgo and Robert Angell voted to approve the plan. Only Cllr Michael Brossard voted against it.

All five of the councillors present at the meeting are Conservatives.

The plan was meant to be decided on May 20 but was delayed. It was discussed at length during an virtual, advisory meeting of the committee on June 17, and given approval at the physical meeting on July 1.