New film studio planned for Norfolk's former nuclear bomber base

A B45 in a hangar at the USAF base at Sculthorpe.
Photo: EDP library

A B45 in a hangar at the USAF base at Sculthorpe. Photo: EDP library - Credit: EDP © 2002

A new film studio could be opened on a former Cold War airbase which once housed nuclear weapons.

Under plans submitted to the local council, developers want to convert a former sports hall and squash courts on the RAF Sculthorpe site, near Fakenham, into a facility for the film industry.

The company behind the proposals believe the studio can capitalise on the growing number of productions being filmed in the UK and will help the sector grow locally.

The plans, submitted to North Norfolk District Council, would see a new studio, with a costume room and a hair and make-up area, created on the Tattersett Business Park, which now covers part of the former military base.

During the Cold War, the site was home to up to 10,000 American personnel from the United States Air Force, which flew nuclear bombers from its runways.

Tattersett Business Park, near Fakenham, where businesses have been affected by a cut off power supp

Tattersett Business Park, near Fakenham - Credit: Archant

The plans would see few changes made to the structure of the building - which was also used as offices - other than removing asbestos and replacing windows and doors where necessary.

A planning statement submitted with the application said the development is needed to help with the high demand for studio space that has arisen within the film industry.

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It said: “It is an established fact that the quality of UK production crews is revered throughout the world, however, since there is a shortage of highly skilled production personnel, because of the huge number of productions migrating to the UK, demand has outstripped supply.  

“Norfolk has provided incredible cinematic locations with very high production values for many filmmakers. The high number of historic houses and landscapes available as locations in the region have provided the backdrop for a variety of period film and TV productions.” 

Tattersett Business Park, near Fakenham, where businesses have been affected by a cut off power supp

Tattersett Business Park, near Fakenham, - Credit: Archant

Letters of support have also been submitted by the University of East Anglia and October Studios, a production company based in Norwich. 

The letter signed by two UEA lecturers, Prof Sarah Barrow and Dr Geraint D’Arcy, said: “We are delighted to confirm our strong support for the proposed development of a film studio in Norfolk. 

“A major film studio in our region would undoubtedly reinvigorate the local film and TV industry and support the established and emerging film culture of the region.” 

The pair say the plan will offer a pathway from education into the industry, potentially providing placements, learning activities, and post-graduate jobs. 

October studios said: “As an expanding business running multiple productions simultaneously, the possibility of using a dedicated converted space in the former gymnasium on site is of interest as a part-time or full-time additional build space.” 

The plans come a few days after the announcement that Raynham Hangar Studios - also on a former airbase near Fakenham - which recently brought Hollywood’s John Travolta to Norfolk was closing

The owner said the venture no longer made business sense. 

RAF Sculthorpe 

RAF Sculthorpe was built as a satellite airfield of RAF West Raynham a few miles to the south and was first home to the 342 Lorraine Squadron of the Free French Air Force. 

Units from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Air Force were also based there.

It was later used by the United States Air Force and played an important role during the Cold War.

It was used during the Berlin Airlift, which saw the western allies fly in supplies to West Berlin after the Soviets blocked land routes.

And it also became home to US nuclear bombers.

By 1957, it was home to 10,000 USAF personnel and was the force's largest base in Europe.

At the end of the Cold War, US units left the base but much of it has been retained in military use by the Ministry of Defence.

It is now known as the Sculthorpe Training Area, with former technical and administrative buildings sold to form the business park.