Jabba the Hutt’s throne room from Star Wars and the old Who Wants to be a Millionaire? studios can be demolished, councillors in Hertfordshire have agreed.
Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning committee has agreed to give the authority prior approval to knock down three sound stages at Elstree Film Studios.
Stages 7, 8 and 9 at the Borehamwood site contain asbestos and crumbling RAAC concrete.
Hertsmere Borough Council, which owns Elstree Film Studios, has previously agreed it would rebuild the stages in the future. Demolition will take place between January 29 and August 2024. Rebuild plans are yet to emerge.
At a meeting on Thursday, December 21, Councillor Paul Hodgson-Jones (Con, Shenley) asked planning chiefs whether the authority should consider demolition and rebuild plans side-by-side.
“The way it’s being done, the new [rebuild] application will have to be treated on its own merits and look at what the alternatives would be for a blank site,” he said.
Ross Whear, head of planning at Hertsmere Borough Council, replied: “I don’t foresee there being any issues that this is being done in two separate processes.”
Mr Whear added: “If a building came back like-for-like in that location, then the fact there was a building there and an impact from that building being there, that would be a material consideration in the consideration of a new building.”
Construction workers found asbestos in the stages 7, 8 and 9 building when they were replacing a door in 2022.
During asbestos remediation works, they found the roofs – first used in the 1960s – “had not only lost their useful life but were in a dangerous state”.
The stages contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), the same material which the Department for Education has identified in more than 200 schools in England.
The Department of Health and Social Care has fast-tracked seven hospital rebuilds as a result of Raac – including Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire and Frimley Park in Surrey. The “bubbly” concrete has a limited lifespan and can weaken after 30 years.
Filmmakers used stages 7, 8 and 9 to produce the first ever Star Wars film in 1977 and its sequels, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, several scenes from the Indiana Jones films and Paddington starring Ben Whishaw.
Stage 8 was home to the BBC’s Pointless. Stage 9 was home to ITV’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? during the 2000s and The Chase with Bradley Walsh. Other stages are unaffected.
Announcing the rebuild in October, Elstree Film Studios chair and Hertsmere Borough Council leader Jeremy Newmark (Lab, Borehamwood Cowley Hill) said: “Elstree Studios continues to thrive and the award-winning Platinum Stages, which opened last year, clearly show that we’re committed to continued investment in this valuable asset for our borough and our residents.”