Will Swanscombe’s £ 5bn plans in London ever be built?
The folks in London and Kent have heard of London Resort, Britain’s £ 5 billion response to Disneyland, for nine years, but what are the chances of that vision becoming a reality.
Dubbed one of Europe’s most ambitious theme park projects, the plans were enough to get thrill seekers excited.
The park will be three times the size of any other in the UK when completed, bringing together an ‘exciting global entertainment destination’ full of rides, hotels, ferries, eSports facilities and a water park on the Hollywood theme.
Since 2012, the proposed theme park has seen its fair share of bumps and obstacles, withdrawal of sponsors, budget issues and, most recently, an environmental battle.
Now, nearly a decade after the foreground was brought to the fore, will the London Resort even be built?
What is the London Resort?
The London Resort
London Resort Company Holdings says it promises a “world-class, sustainable and next-generation entertainment resort on the banks of the River Thames”.
Specifically, the London Resort will be made up of two twin theme park sites, built on the former industrial swanscombe swamps, in large part, near Gravesend and Dartford and a short distance from London.
The site would be built on 535 acres of the North Kent site, the size of 136 Wembley stadiums.
Through a partnership with the BBC, ITV Studios and Paramount Pictures. the expansive theme park will host attractions from films such as Mission Impossible and The Godfather, as well as children’s shows such as Thunderbirds.
Four new visuals were released earlier this year, hinting at the “next-gen” rides and experiences visitors can expect to find.
More than 3,500 hotel rooms will be created and two ferry terminals – one on either side of the Thames – will be built, along with facilities at the rear, a visitor center and a new route from the A2.
According to plans, around 70% of the attractions will also be covered, to cope with the unpredictable English weather.
The London Resort
Economically, the park promises to create 9,000 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs in the first year of opening, and almost double after 15 years.
Possibly one of the UK’s largest single site employers, and could contribute up to £ 50 billion of gross economic activity in the wider region.
The last scheduled opening date to pass was Easter 2020, and was originally scheduled to open in 2019, but the project is now “very different” from what was last proposed in 2015.
Originally, the legacy venues of the Olympics, Ashford and Cliffe on the Hoo Peninsula were among the areas considered before the promoters moved to Swanscombe.
The project was also the first to be declared an infrastructure project of national significance (NSIP).
But since 2012, plans have been plagued by constant delays, with sponsors pulling back and fearing millions of pounds in losses.
The current timeline has the first of two theme parks to open in 2024 and 2029.
The London Resort
The current director of the cheif, PY Gerbeau, said in December 2020 that he had been “non-stop” since taking office 18 months earlier.
The French entrepreneur is credited with saving the Millennium Dome project, now the O2 in Greenwich, and recently recovered from the coronavirus.
“We have relaunched, revised and reprogrammed the whole business. It will be more than just a theme park.”
It should be noted that this vision for the London Resort has progressed further than any other project so far.
On December 31, 2020, a planning request was formally submitted to the government and was accepted for consideration the following week.
The document contains more than 25,000 reports, assessments and analyzes, and marks new territory and new hope for those who hope to see the theme park come to life.
The government, through its planning inspection agency, has 28 days in which to write to local authorities and together assess the ‘adequacy’ of the consultation and conduct an assessment. request before accepting or rejecting the submission.
Bumps and barriers
The journey since the resort’s plans were first revealed has been far from smooth, with budget concerns first affecting plans that have struggled to get anything formal submitted.
Then the sponsors started to pull back and the plans were redesigned.
As mentioned above however, the developers in charge now seem closer than their predecessors to starting construction work on the monster.
The biggest barrier that remains today appears to be an environmental barrier.
Activists have long protested against the London Resort, arguing that the plans “threaten the rich diversity of life” in the territory.
The meadows, wetlands and brownfields known as the Swanscombe Marshes are home to more rare and endangered species than any other brownfield site in the UK.
Besides the abundance of bees, butterflies, beetles, cuckoos and marsh lizards, the land is one of only two places in the UK where you can find the distinguished critically endangered jumping spider. extinction (Attulus distinguendus).
“But all this is now threatened by the London Resort theme park project,” argues the petition, set up by Buglife.
It’s the rare jumping spider that seems most likely to throw a wrench in the work of theme park developers.
Attulus distinguishedendus (c) Roman Willi
In February, a group called the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign released a joint statement asking Natural England to declare the site as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
And in March, Natural England dealt the London Resort a heavy blow, declaring the ‘wildlife paradise’ an SSSI.
The government conservation agency Natural England also said the 250 hectare (620 acre) site, which sits between the M25 and Gravesend, is an important green space for people as well as wildlife.
James Seymour, Regional Director for Sussex and Kent for Natural England, said: “The designation of the Swanscombe Peninsula as SSSI is great news for one of England’s richest known sites for invertebrates, ensuring a essential refuge for many rare and endangered species which are unable to thrive in the wider landscape.
But PY Gerbeau said: “The project will continue of course, and this is just another issue to be addressed in the long history of this project.”
He said the company has been studying and monitoring the site since 2012 and working closely with Natural England to identify the right green solutions to bring the project to fruition.
He added: “Sustainability is a green thread in everything London Resort offers and we are very proud of it.”
The developers of the resort also claim that much of the peninsula’s landscape will remain undeveloped, instead of being enhanced for wildlife with natural features perfectly integrated into the theme park designs.
They say they aim to be one of the world’s most sustainable global destinations and may even operate carbon neutral.
Others, including local residents, have also expressed concerns about traffic in the area, which is already heavily congested due to the Darford crossing.
Those on both sides will wait for the decision on the planning request, hopefully this month, but by then not a single brick will be laid.
The London Resort
So in reality, we don’t yet know whether the £ 5bn mega-theme park will be built as planned or will remain an extravagant sight.
But it looks like we’re close, and we’ll bring the news to you as soon as we get it.