Olympic glory woos investors to starting line of Paramount Park in Swanscombe
A computer generated
image of how Paramount Park on the Swanscombe Peninsula
by business editor Trevor Sturgess
The Olympic factor is persuading potential investors in a
Paramount theme park to beat a path to the developer's door.
Plans for the £2billion scheme on Swanscombe Peninsula
were revealed late last year, with the prospect of 27,000 jobs
at the Disney-style resort.
But the scheme's biggest challenge has been attracting enough
funds to enable it to get off the ground in a tough economic
That was one of the reasons why the London Resort Company
Holdings (LRCH) consortium hired Chris Townsend, commercial
director at London 2012 organiser LOCOG. He helped raise £2bn
towards the cost of the Olympic Games and LRCH is confident he can
do the same for the Paramount project.
Tony Sefton, project leader, said investors were keen to contact
Mr Townsend. "He's not waiting, they are coming," he said. Many
were from overseas.
"There has been a very positive reaction from the market and the
fact Chris raised £2.4bn for the Olympics, and raised the money for
Oyster Card and Sky, gives credibility."
Before London 2012, the UK had suffered from a poor reputation
for planning and infrastructure. "The Olympics have been
fantastic," he said. "If we hadn’t had the Olympics, they wouldn't
be coming because the UK had such a shocking record."
It showed the UK could deliver major projects and Paramount
would be the next big post-Olympics project, he said.
Mr Sefton said four government departments were supporting the
plans and trying to sort out the various challenges. "Everyone's
desperate to prove the UK is open for business."
He said the project was on track to raise a high proportion of
the initial £30m to kick-start the first phase of the biggest
regeneration project in Europe.
Meanwhile, local councils are working with Paramount park
developers to hammer out a scheme that would raise additional funds
and make the project even more attractive to investors.
Something like an enterprise zone might offer generous capital
allowances, business rate holidays and funding for job
But officials believe the sort of enterprise zone status already
granted to east Kent and the old Pfizer site – Discovery Park – in
Sandwich might not be the right vehicle.
Tony Sefton, project leader, is in talks with officials from the
government, Kent County Council, Dartford and Gravesham councils,
to find the right scheme.
Barbara Cooper, KCC director of economic development, confirmed
the council's strong support but said an enterprise zone which
offers business rate relief might not be right.
"What Tony needs is something much bigger than that. We've
agreed to look at what is available. I know the issues now and
that's what we can start a dialogue about."
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