Demand for Peel’s TV studios triggers expansion

Peel Holdings is planning to expand its television production facilities at the Pie Factory in Salford Quays to keep up with demand, four years before the BBC arrives.

The first studios operating from the 200-acre Media City UK site opened in February 2007, providing three sound stages covering 50,000 sq ft as well as 20,000 sq ft of offices and ancillary service areas.

The Pie Factory is a joint venture between the property giant's Peel Media subsidiary and Manchester-based production house Sumners. Andy Sumner, director of the Pie Factory, said: "Media City UK is already here, it's up and running. We're doing lots of commercials and dramas; it proves how healthy the media industry in the North has become. The office accommodation is full so we're currently looking to do more redevelopment of the site to meet the demand. We are proof that the concept is working."

Peel will renovate 20,000 sq ft of redundant space at the rear of the Pie Factory into further offices for casting companies, camera hire firms and related suppliers. A gym and canteen will also be provided.

The BBC is to move five departments from London to Salford Quays in 2011, while a BBC outside broadcast team has confirmed it will be taking space within The Pie Factory imminently. The Pie Factory was formerly home to a Freshbake Frozen Foods plant.

Ed Burrows, project manager of Media City UK for Peel, said: "When the concept was first announced there was some scepticism as to whether companies would come to Salford Quays. But as the early success of the Pie Factory demonstrates, people working in the industry are more than willing to be part of it."

Producer Juliet Charlesworth, of production company Hatrick, agrees. She said: "I have used The Pie Factory to film 'Drop Dead Gorgeous' and will shortly be going back there with another production. It's a great facility."

Two major television series have been lined up for filming at The Pie Factory later this year and several high-profile Premiership football stars have been filming commercials for their sponsors at the site.

Sumner added: "There are already facilities outside London but we want to be the best. We have a great location with great facilities. We want to create the best sound stage complex in the country and that means we are going up against Pinewood and Shepperton. We're not there yet but it's what we're aiming for."

The BBC will occupy 330,000 sq ft out of a total of 1.3m sq ft of offices at Media City UK. The wider development will include hotels, residential and leisure uses. Peel is also in talks with Salford University about relocating its arts and media faculty to the site.

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