Published: 00:01, 04 July 2017
Paramount Pictures and the developers of a theme park in Kent had been on the verge of going their separate ways for several months before finally announcing a split.
The announcement sent shockwaves through the county and prompted some politicians to claim there is “a big question mark over the viability of the project”, which it is claimed would create 27,000 jobs.
London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), which first revealed plans for the £3.2bn resort in 2012, said cutting ties with the Hollywood giant would not affect its goal to submit a planning application in November – with an opening scheduled for 2022.
Industry insiders say the split had been expected for some time as Paramount has been reviewing its theme park strategy generally.
It pulled out of plans for a theme park in South Korea in 2015 due to a downturn in the country’s economy.
Weeks before its split with LRCH, Murcia Today reported that plans for a Paramount resort in Spain were “finally laid to rest” after the High Court of Murcia said its proposed site encroached on protected land.
This was despite former regional president Ramon Luis Valcarcel placing the first stone at the site in Alhama in 2012.
Building work had failed to materialise due to a lack of investors.
LRCH spokesman Andy Martin said the split with Paramount was a joint decision and that both parties had been talking about it for some months.
He dismissed the suggestion the split was a blow to the project and said the company has other intellectual property “lined up”, with details due to be revealed at its fifth round of public consultations later this summer.
The 535-acre resort, which has pushed back its opening date three times, already has agreements to use the intellectual property of the BBC and Aardman Animations – the creators of Wallace and Gromit.
He said: “For us it’s a really positive step to be able to sign some really exciting partners. That is something we couldn’t do previously.
“We are creating what we think will be the best theme park in the UK that will be really good for the local area, creating thousands of jobs.”
The positive tone of the resort bosses was supported by an announcement a week earlier that a deal had been reached with InterContinental Hotels Group to open hotels at the site with 4,000 guest rooms.
However, business owners say plans to open the theme park on the Swanscombe Peninsula between Gravesend and Dartford by 2022 are “totally unrealistic” following the split.
Landowners and bosses on three industrial estates needed for the attraction believe the only way it can be delivered on time is if they are turfed out with compulsory purchase powers, should the attraction gain approval from ministers, expected in 2019.
Dan Bramwell represents 140 businesses on the Northfleet Industrial Estate, Kraft Kent Estate and Manor Way Business Park, as part of the Peninsula Management Group.
He said the situation had reached “crunch time” adding it is “obvious that LRCH has had to scale back its plans since the original plans were launched”.
He said: “Whereas it is good to see progress being made as this helps to eliminate uncertainty, it is very frustrating that serious negotiations over relocation and compensation for the businesses and landowners has yet to start in earnest.
"There have been promises from LRCH’s agents but these have not been backed-up with action which is what the PMG parties want to see.”
The financial terms of the split between LRCH and Paramount have not been made public.
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