The Force is strong with Aycliffe steel firm in Pinewood Studios

A Newton Aycliffe construction firm is feeling the force of the new Star Wars franchise after being awarded a contract to help build part of the set for the eighth episode of the worldwide phenomenon.

SCH Site Services, based on Aycliffe Business Park, has started erecting huge wooden ‘Glulam’ structures at Pinewood Studios as Walt Disney starts preparing for the next big film, due for release in 2017.

Walt Disney bought Lucasfilm for more than $4 billion in 2012 and announced three new films to continue the epic storyline.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens topped more than $600m (US dollars) in global receipts after its release in December, on top of millions more in merchandise sales.

The US giant has already started preparing for the next chapter, also due to be filmed in the UK.

And Aycliffe company SCH Site Services, which usually works in steel construction, is excited to be playing a very small part by erecting kit-form buildings at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, on behalf of Derby-based B&K Structures, which is part of the Bowmer & Kirkland group.

B&K is erecting six Glulam (glued and laminated) structures made from Austrian wood beams, each weighing four-and-a-half tonnes.

SCH has been handed a contract to construct two of them, with seven men working on the Iver Heath set.

“It’s very exciting to be involved, albeit in a very small way, in the next Star Wars film,” said SCH managing director Gary Finley.

“Unfortunately we can’t give much away about the project, it’s very top secret as you’d expect.

“But they’re effectively kit-form buildings which are designed to be more environmentally-friendly, sustainable structures.

“I don’t think anyone is building them on the same scale as B&K Structures, who we’ve worked closely with for a number of years.”

SCH, which employs 40 staff and reported a record annual turnover of £4.5m in 2015, is not unfamiliar with unusual projects and TV stardom.

In September (2015), the company appeared on Grand Designs after constructing the biggest house ever to feature on Channel 4’s popular TV show.

SCH provided the steel for the sprawling, 60-metre long bungalow in West Sussex which left presenter Kevin McCloud almost speechless, and the programme featured the Aycliffe firm’s operations director Andy Braid.