On many weekends the parking bays to the East and South of the fields become packed to the gills with caravans and trailers. The Fields look like a badly managed caravan park in Devon and ring to the sound of the generator truck(s). Each crew is different but it’s not uncommon to see waste water from sinks and showers being discharged on the street. And creative parking – this weekend the massive tractor unit to an articulated lorry parked on the gravel/tarmac pavement at the SE corner of the Fields. On mega filming weekends both the Camden East side and Westminster South sides of the Fields are crammed with location support vehicles. This isn’t ‘location filming’ as filming isn’t necessarily taking place on the Fields or in the Inn – it could be anywhere in London.
Overall the quiet woody amenity of the Fields is substantially reduced at the weekends. In the Spring this year there was an incessant stream of film units at the weekends.
You can see why the film and TV companies like it – their cast and crew get a nice quiet leafy place to chill out at practically no cost and the limos ferry them to the filming location somewhere else in London. But Camden as a whole and the Fields in particular get a bad deal from this.
The film companies pay a pittance for the parking wayleave.
Local businesses don’t benefit as much as they should due to the provision of massive mobile catering wagons
Businesses who may have space to let to film crews are crowded out by the Council undercutting them with subsidised parking and drainage
Illegally parked vehicles don’t seem to be ticketed
Pedestrians often can’t use or are ‘discouraged’ by staff in Hi-Vis from using the pavement
There’s no evidence that money raised from this unusual parking goes to local amenity
People who want to shop locally in Covent Garden to the clear benefit of local businesses (and compete ferociously for single yellow line spaces at the weekend) are denied parking spaces
We know from an email of 23 June that Cllr Fulbrook supports local people:
‘If it is ‘obstructing the highway’, then it is well worth logging with the local Police. The Holborn Control Room for non-urgent incidents is at 020 7404 1212. We need to build up a full picture. In addition, we are asking the Leisure section to review the whole arrangements. In my view Camden is being ripped off…….with restaurants, film ‘hirings’, events etc in Lincoln’s Inn Fields – minimal income and all at considerable expense to local amenities for local people.’
I raised the issue with the Filming Office by voice message and email but never received a reply. There doesn’t seem to be a coherent attempt to extract best value from the arrangement for the immediate area nor Camden as a whole. Here’s some issues worth thinking about:
While the Council provides subsidised space for people to carry on their business, local public and private sector entrepreneurs are being crowded out. For instance – why can’t a local Camden school let its rooms to production companies and charge then a market rent. Also there are substantial amounts of vacant office space in the area (see the orange monstrosity at the end of Shaftesbury Avenue) this should be allowed to become a temporary internal film support lots.
Filming support spaces should be banned in areas of high natural amenity – film crews could just as easily park on an industrial estate, it’s a job after all – the bogus glamour of the exploitative media industries shouldn’t distract form the hard facts.
Films crews should be charged a rent for any public space related to the budget of the production – at present it’s clear that the amount paid is a tiny fraction of a percent of the overall cost.
Catering trailers should be banned to drive trade to local restaurants and cafes
Outside generators should be banned, again to drive production companies into local buildings, where there is plenty of capacity
Where is the evidence that filming is sufficiently valuable to be given a public subsidy with cheap workspaces? Why should we not subsidise say a law firm instead – if a local law firm wanted to install temporary vehicles to accommodate staff to cope with a peak (say on a big deal) i doubt it would be allowed.
There was a lull in filming over the summer, but Cllrs might need to do more to prevent the situation getting out of hand again.