LONDON-A local council has given the go-ahead for the biggest single leisure development in Welsh history, the £1 billion ($1.57 billion) Dragon International film studio complex.

Dragon International Studios is headed by one of the best known names in Britain’s show business, actor/director Lord Richard Attenborough, and comprises a consortium of businesses and financial backers.

The aim of the developers is to establish a former opencast mine in Wales as the heart of Britain’s film industry. The centrepiece of the development will be film studios built on 160 acres and modelled on Universal’s one in America.

But the studios are only a small part of the 760-acre development on the edge of some of the country’s most deprived and derelict areas. Other proposals for the site, just south of the Rhondda Valley, include a golf course and club, restaurants, a six-screen multiplex cinema, a hospital and hotel, health spa, shops, and business parks. The complex will also include a film academy, 10 five-star celebrity houses and a bank of apartments, a spa to relax in and an “outdoor water-based attraction”.

A new junction off the M4 motorway will also be created further opening up the Welsh valleys to development and regeneration. The agreement by the developers to provide the junction was a key factor in the decision of Rhondda Cynon Taff council to give the go-ahead for the development.

The Welsh Assembly last May ruled that the scheme’s creation of an additional M4 junction would contravene transport guidelines and ordered the council to reject the plans. But in October the assembly rescinded its objections to the scheme, and restored the council’s decision-making role on the application. This means there are unlikely to be any other major holdups to the development.

King Sturge is property adviser to Dragon International.

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