Reading University TV Studio, Shinfield

project possibly abandoned?


image thanks to Scott Brownrigg


In February 2020 Reading University announced that they had done a deal with Blackhall Studios to build a large film studio complex on land they owned at Thames Valley Science Park, next to the M4 near Junction 11.  The first stages opened in 2022.  However, it consists of 4-waller sound stages suitable for shooting films and TV drama, but not for multicamera TV shows.

I gather the University were contacted by a TV lighting company after the announcement was made and it was pointed out to them that they really ought to include a fully equipped TV studio in their plans.  As it happened, they had a site earmarked for further expansion next to their existing Gateway buildings, which house a number of R&D and tech companies.

Plans were drawn up in the summer of 2020 that included a studio of around 20,000 sq ft. (This is very large indeed!)  According to the University’s website, the proposal was to use a building contractor that specialises in constructing large temporary venues for conferences and events.  Apparently, the building itself was to be erected in less than a week (!) and so would hopefully be available from early 2021.


My understanding is that BBC Studioworks then became involved in this project.  They brought their experience to bear and it would appear that the original plans were modified accordingly.  The studio would now have a floor area of about 13,000 sq ft (a rather more realistic and useful size).  From the plans, it looked as though the working area would be approximately 130 x 100 metric feet.  It was to have have a workshop/storage area and production offices, green rooms, dressing rooms, wardrobe/make up areas etc.  The 4K studio was to be aimed at shiny floor audience shows and would be fully equipped with production, sound and lighting control rooms.  There would be easy access for crew members and production teams to the existing cafeteria in the Gateway 1 building.

An application for planning permission was submitted to Wokingham Borough Council in January 2021.  Permission was granted in July.  The projected opening date was said at the time to be late 2022.  Any idea of this being a ‘pop-up’ temporary building had been quietly dropped.  Indeed, the university claimed that ‘the studio could create over £225m of value over 30 years’ – so this did appear to be a long term investment.  I have looked at the plans and the whole scheme appeared to be very well thought-out.  The architects are Scott Brownrigg, a highly regarded firm who are also designing the film studios here at Shinfield and the new studios at Sunset Waltham Cross.


Interestingly, an aerial photo sent to me in July 2022 shows progress being made on the film studios but no sign of any construction on the TV studio.  In the autumn of 2021 there were rumours that this project had been abandoned but in October of that year the BBC’s Director General mentioned in a speech to staff that he was looking forward to the studio becoming available.  I did hear however that the project was on hold at that time as the BBC were in talks with the university about whether they could build more than one studio.  As it wasn’t in the original plan they needed to consider it properly before making any decision.  I can’t confirm whether this was indeed the case.  Unfortunately, the lack of any physical work on the site so far does sadly suggest that there may be problems with the arrangement between the BBC and the university that have not yet been overcome.

If it does go ahead, then building a fully equipped studio like this will take at least 18 months, probably more like 2 years.  In February 2024 the Thames Valley Science Park website was still including this studio on its news page but on the actual site no work was in progress.  I fear that for reasons currently unknown, this project may have been quietly dropped.  Please contact me if you have any news on this.


The Thames Valley Science Park site photographed in July 2022.  In the background can be seen the new film studios under construction.  The empty patch of land to the left of the dark red building is where the TV studio is due to be built – but no sign of any activity.
photo thanks to Steve Sharpe


Of course, some might ask why BBC Studioworks need a studio near Reading?  One answer is that it is outside the M25 so is a ‘regional’ studio.  This ticks that particular box demanded by Ofcom but also means that freelance crew who live west of London will be available without the cost of travel and accommodation.  This would be attractive to many production companies.  Also, I can’t help noticing that it is a similar size to the George Lucas stages at Elstree, where Strictly Come Dancing is made.  Studioworks rent that studio from Elstree Studios (owned by Hertsmere Council), who can of course charge them whatever they like.  Having their own studio in competition with Elstree would put Studioworks in a very interesting position.  Also, with Studioworks losing studio D at BBC Elstree following the sale of the site to AXA Insurance, it does make this studio look like a possible alternative.  However, I have heard no rumours that the project will be going ahead.