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Construction firms should join forces to earn contracts for work at Paramount Park in Swanscombe say experts, as glimpse of future appears in Spain

31 January 2014
by Chris Price

The Paramount Park project is expected to kick into life in 2014 now the government has ruled out the option of a Thames Crossing on the land earmarked for it.

More than 900 miles away, the south east of Spain is offering a glimpse of things to come.

There was a collective sigh of relief across north Kent when the government announced the Swanscombe Peninsula would not be considered for a new Thames Crossing.

A graphic of how Paramount Park on Swanscombe Peninsula might look

A graphic of how Paramount Park on Swanscombe Peninsula might look

It has cleared the way for the Paramount Park project to press ahead after months of uncertainty triggered when the site was included among three options
for ways to link Kent and Essex.

Set to create more than 27,000 jobs, the £2.3bn park was too precious a development for the Department for Transport to jeopardise.

Public opinion has been gripped by the debate on which route will be chosen – option A next to the current Dartford Crossing, option B in Swanscombe or option C cutting through rural land at Cliffe.

The consultation has received 5,700 responses so far, leading to the scrapping of option B last month.

In a speech in the House of Commons transport minister Robert Goodwell said: “The department’s review of options showed that option B has the weakest case.

“Consultation feedback has additionally shown that option B receives limited support and instead raises serious concerns that it would jeopardise major redevelopment of the Swanscombe Peninsula, a key part of the growth strategy for the Thames Gateway area.

“A number of stakeholders have urged me to discard this option as swiftly as possible.”

Among those breathing a sigh of relief was Kamal Aggarwal, a partner at law firm Thomson Snell & Passmore and head of its Thames Gateway office in the Crossways Business Park, near Dartford.

He said: “It comes as an enormous relief to all those interested in the long-term and sustainable development and regeneration of north Kent.

“Option B would have placed the proposed Paramount Park Resort at Swanscombe at considerable risk. This decision is a very welcome one.”

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said he was delighted by the government’s decision to rule out building a new crossing on the Swanscombe Peninsula.

He said: “It’s welcome news for local residents and for developers who are keen to make a significant investment in that area.

“The government has recognised the huge potential that exists in Swanscombe and the potential for jobs and the future economic benefits for the Dartford area.

“The Swanscombe Peninsula, right next to the High Speed 1 station at Ebbsfleet, has enormous potential.

“Paramount is very keen to build a theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsula, which would generate significant jobs and revitalise the area. I am really pleased that the announcement will help to facilitate this.”

Paramount Park project manager Tony Sefton

Paramount Park project manager Tony Sefton

With the project clear to press ahead, attention is now focussed on which companies will benefit from the scheme.

The company developing the park for Paramount, London Resort Company Holdings, will be making decisions on who wins construction contracts this year but there is no guarantee any Kent firms will get a cut of the work on the 872-acre site, twice the size of the Olympic Park, once planning permission is inevitably approved.

Project director Tony Sefton said: “We have got people looking at how we procure.

“People say ‘is it going to be employment for local people?’ and I can’t say yes but there isn’t one single firm in the UK which can provide all the construction works we need. We need several.”

For an idea of the shape of things to come, curious bosses in the tourism and construction sectors need look no further than Murcia, where the European version of the theme park is taking shape.

In November, the promoter behind the scheme, Premursa, awarded €72m of construction contracts to two firms.

The highest contract of €52m was awarded to Ferrovial Agromán, the construction division of €7bn-turnover Ferrovial, the owners of Heathrow. The second contract of €20m went to CHM Obras e Infraestructuras, whose headquarters are based about 50 miles away in Alicante.

A CGI of the proposed Paramount Park in Murcia, Spain

A CGI of the proposed Paramount Park in Murcia, Spain

CHM will be the first on-site this month, improving access roads so that Ferrovial Agromán can begin its work.

As soon as CHM has done its bit, Premursa say up to 4,000 workers could be active on-site at any one time – many of them drawn from the local population.

The park is set to open in the latter stages of 2015, creating 20,000 jobs.

Industry leaders in Kent think small firms should be pushing for a share of the pie when contracts go out for tender.

Constructing Excellence Kent Club founder member Kevin Bush said: “We need a way of making local companies aware of the opportunity coming up and for them to have some clout if they are not big enough to bid on their own.

“There may be an opportunity for someone to act as an intermediary in that respect.

“We need someone to say to a number of smaller companies, ‘do you want to get together to bid for this?’

“For example, Kent has got lots of great architecture firms but none are big enough to take on the Paramount project on their own.

“If you put four or five together, they would have the ability to undertake the design for the project.”

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