The site’s future is uncertain as, despite an annual spend upwards of €70M in Co. Wicklow, it may be used for much-needed residential housing in the area.
Ardmore Studios has been owned by Ossie Kilkenny and Paul McGuinness since its establishment in 1958, with original stakeholders Enterprise Ireland owning almost 32%, and is on sale for an estimated €15M.
RTÉ have reportedly obtained a copy of the confidential forty-page prospectus provided to private investors, which highlights the suitability of the 18 acre site in Bray for housing development.
In a record of written answers from Ministers dated Thursday, November 3rd, Minister Mitchell-O’Connor replied to Deputy Pat Casey’s request for statement on the matter of Enterprise Ireland’s process in making the decision to sell the shareholding and the reasons conditions were not put in place to ensure the site remains used for film production.
Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor:
“As a passive investor, Enterprise Ireland has not been involved in the day-to-day business of running Ardmore Studios. Furthermore while Enterprise Ireland offers supports to exporting companies involved in film and the creative sector, policy responsibility for the development of the film industry rests with my colleague, Ms Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.”
A transcript of notes taken on Monday, November 14th during a Special Meeting of the Wicklow County Council show stakeholders are concerned regarding the potential economic impact on the area if residential development goes ahead, despite the assurances of government that the studio will be sold as a going concern.
Key points are the status of the unconditional sale, the contents of the confidential sales prospectus and maintaining control over the zoning and development of the land. The wider impact is that pursing residential development in the site will break up the existing film cluster in the county, undermining objectives supporting the film and television industry in initiatives such as the Mid-east Action Plan for jobs, Local Economic and Community Plan and County Wicklow Economic Think Tank action plan.
Director Miriam Murphy:
“The three main stakeholders we understand are Ardmore Studios Limited, Ardmore International Studios and Enterprise Ireland. And we understand that Enterprise Ireland has a 32% share in Ardmore. Deputy Pat Casey has been liaising with us on this matter on an ongoing basis. He has been trying to find out as much information as possible about the sale.
“I understand that he has raised the matter in the Dáil on two or three occasions at this stage. He has submitted questions to the relevant Ministers. The two Ministers in question are deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; and deputy Heather Humphries, who is Minster for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
“I also understand that Deputy Casey has been in contact with the CEO of Enterprise Ireland and is awaiting further information from the CEO. Deputy Casey tried to obtain a copy of the prospectus from both the agent appointed for sale, and also from Ardmore studios directly, but his efforts have been unsuccessful to date.
"It appears that this is an unconditional sale which would suggest that there are no covenants preserving Ardmore for the sole use of film studios. And this is obviously a big concern for us, as potentially the studios could be purchased by a developer who may have no interest in retaining the site for film studio purposes. So potentially the only protection for the retention of the site for film studio purposes is through the planning process, e.g. though the zoning process, that the members have control of.”
Counsellor Joe Behan:
“The issue over Enterprise Ireland’s 32% stake is one that causes concern. They’ve been very silent on the matter so far. It is an unconditional sale we are led to belief (sic). So as a Council we need confirmation that the sale is conditional on Ardmore being retained as a film production centre and as a Council we need to ensure that the site in question continues to be zoned for film production only.”
The meeting resulted in a motion to write to Minsters Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, Heather Humphreys and Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon, in addition to the five Oireachtas members for Co. Wicklow requesting their support in arranging these meetings and a copy of the sales prospectus for the Council members.
Two weeks later on Monday, November 28th a subsequent County Council Budget Meeting shows that although all correspondence has been sent, there has been no further communication.
Further updates on the sale of Ardmore Studios will be published on IFTN as they become available.
Transcript: County Council Special Meeting, November 14th 2016
Written Answers Nos 1-30, Thursday, November 3rd 2016
IFTN News Archive: Ardmore Film Studios Goes on the Market