Westmeath councillors voted unanimously on Monday to approve the development of what would be Ireland’s largest film studio facility.
When completed, the Hammerlake Studios campus will boast 460,000sq ft of studio space, located on a 25-acre site at Lough Sheever Corporate park in Mullingar.
Planning for the international studio was granted initial approval by Westmeath County Council’s planning department last July on the condition of a zoning change. The application site was not zoned and was, therefore, subject to a material contravention of the Westmeath County development plan for 2021-2027.
Its approval was recommended by the chief executive of Westmeath County Council (WCC), Pat Gallagher, who said it would attract further local investment.
“It is considered that it would be a beneficial development for the county. It has the potential to strengthen, support and facilitate economic development and attract further investment to Mullingar and Co Westmeath,” he told councillors.
Construction will be split into two phases, with the first phase expected to begin in the next number of months.
Phase one of the project will comprise four studios or “sound stages” suitable for large-scale film and television production, an administrative building, workshops, data technology centres, editing rooms and other amenities.
Construction is estimated to take 12 months, with film production operations to begin from the first quarter of 2024. Some 350 production jobs and 300 construction jobs will be created in phase one.
Phase two, which will be submitted for planning approval in summer 2023, will see an additional seven studios added to the campus.
Hammerlake estimates a minimum of 1,000 production jobs will be created upon full commencement of phase two operations in 2025.
All councillors spoke in favour of the development including Mayor of Mullingar-Kinnegad Hazel Smyth.
“It really is an honour to be in a position to propose this exciting development. To hear of the businesses advantages that this will give Mullingar and the fact that it is a net zero [carbon] development is really exciting too,” she said.
Cllr Mick Dollard said “Mullingar is now open for business” thanks to this new studio.
“Local councillors have very little power left compared with what they had a number of years ago in the context of local government. This is part of our responsibility now to make sure developments like this go ahead, so I will welcome it,” he said.
The Cathaoirleach of WCC, Aengus O’Rourke, also welcomed the development.
“I think it is a very unique type of industry, I don’t think any of us know yet the potential this might have. I’m sure it will reach into many parts of the county and many parts of the midlands region.”