Hammerlake committed to ‘building a legacy for Mullingar’

Hammerlake Studios is committed to “building a legacy for Mullingar”, its chief executive has said, after the firm’s plan to build one of Europe’s largest film studios on the outskirts of the town was given the green light by local councillors this afternoon.

At the monthly meeting of the local authority, councillors approved a material contravention of the county development plan which will enable Hammerlake Studios to proceed with its ambitious plans to construct a 460,000 square foot film studio campus on a 25-acre site at Lough Sheever Corporate Park.

Hammerlake says that when the studio is fully operational in 2025, it will employ 1,000 production staff and generate around €50m per year for the local economy. Some 300 jobs will also be created during the construction phase.

Hammerlake’s initial planning application was granted permission by Westmeath County Council in July, but was subject to a material contravention of the CDP, which can only be approved by elected representatives.

Every councillor who spoke at today’s meeting voiced their support for the development.

Cllr Ken Glynn, who proposed the material contravention, said that studio is “fantastic good news story” for Mullingar and a “huge injection of confidence” in the town.

Cllr Hazel Smyth, mayor of Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District, seconded Cllr Glynn’s proposal, saying that the studio is a “really exciting development for Mullingar” and that it is a “massive boost” that it will be a “net zero development”.

Supporting the development, Cllr Denis Leonard said that many of the jobs to be created at the studio will be highly paid. He also welcomed the news that Hammerlake is in discussions with Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) and TUS about developing tailored courses.

Cllr Andrew Duncan said that the studio is a “rare opportunity”.

“It’s something special for Mullingar, not only in light of the huge boost from a jobs perspective, but also from the perspective of the publicity that it will generate,” he said.

Cllr Aoife Davitt said that while Mullingar is already known as the music capital of Ireland, the studio will “elevate the town to the arts capital of Ireland”.

“It will be fantastic for the local economy,” she said.

Cllr Bill Collentine said that the studio will “mean a lot for Mullingar and surrounding areas” and “will bring much needed employment and revenue”. “It will be a benefit to all and is a winner for everyone. We have been waiting for sometime for something big to come along and this our chance. We have to welcome it,” he said.

Offering his “full support”, Cllr John Shaw says the significance of a project of this scale will not be fully known for a number of years.

He also paid tribute to the council for their proactive approach in dealings with Hammerlake.

Cllr Frank McDermott said he was “absolutely delighted” to support the material contravention and he looked forward to some of north Westmeath’s famous sites such as Tullynally Castle, Fore, and Killua Castle featuring in productions in the years to come.

The cathaoirleach, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, said that a development of the scale proposed by Hammerlake is a “really exciting prospect for the county” and that he wishes the people involved in the project well.

Cllr Frankie Keena said that it is “marvellous news for Mullingar, the county and midlands” and that he looks forward to it coming to fruition.

Cllr Louise Heavin said that she supported the material contravention and welcomed the development, but added that she was disappointed to learn that many of the jobs will be freelance roles rather than permanent positions.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner ahead of last Tuesday’s careers information evening in Mullingar Library, which was attended by more than 300 people, Hammerlake’s director of development and operations, Tom Dowling, said that since his firm submitted its planning application in May, his focus has been on training and education and he’s spoken to representatives from different bodies, including Longford Westmeath ETB and TUS, to identify what training programmes are needed to ensure that the project can hit the ground running.

Of the 1,000-plus productions jobs that will be created when the studio is fully operational, Hammerlake is hopeful that 25-30 per cent will be filled by locals.

Those workers will need to be skilled, he says.

“I’ve been talking to lots of people in the area about training and how we’re going to find these pools of people, and how we’re going to upskill them to work in the business,” he said.

“One thing is building the studios, the other thing is filling the studios with people – you need that skill set. So you need to build that skill set.”

When the campus is fully operational it will be able to produce two large episodic dramas simultaneously or one large scale feature film.

In a statement released to the Westmeath Examiner after the meeting, Paul Chesney, chief executive officer of Hammerlake Studios, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of Westmeath Council for their comprehensive vote in favour of a land zoning change, which will allow the phase one build of Hammerlake Studios.

“We greatly appreciate all the enthusiasm from the town and the local community and are committed to building a legacy for Mullingar.”