Published: 18:45, 10 September 2021
| Updated: 00:32, 11 September 2021
Nearly 2,000 businesses from around the world have signed up to register their interest to build a £2.5 billion theme park in Kent.
The call for firms to develop and deliver the London Resort proposals went out earlier this summer drawing criticism from neighbouring businesses fearing they will be forced to shut down if the plans are approved.
About a third of those which have submitted their potential support are based in Kent and Essex, resort bosses announced.
Details were published today by London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), the company behind the ambitious plans to build a rival to Disneyland Paris on the Swanscombe Peninsula between Dartford and Gravesend.
Bosses say almost 90% of those businesses signing up with the LRCH supply chain register are either small or medium-sized enterprises with less than 250 employees.
In a statement, LRCH said this would help it meet a government target to ensure £1 in every £3 spent on the project – if granted planning permission by the Planning Inspectorate – would be with smaller business.
The numbers announced also confirm a third of firms on the register are from the construction industry with the remainder from retail, food and beverage, creative and entertainment companies, security, logistics and engineering firms.
Tim Aker, development manager at the Kent and Medway Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “That so many businesses have registered to be part of the procurement process demonstrates the value the London Resort will bring to the South East, and the country as a whole.
"FSB members across the region have signed up, and more to follow.
"It’s an exciting project that will bring jobs and investment as our economy begins to recover.”
But while the numbers of businesses which resort bosses say could benefit, there are some 100 "hidden" companies based around the proposed development site which say they face being turfed out.
KentOnline spoke to company bosses who said 140 small companies on land LRCH wants to acquire to build the park.
The theme park and its hotels would cover 1,245 acres – a space equivalent to roughly 113 Wembley stadiums.
Dozens of business owners say existing livelihoods and jobs face being booted out by the mammoth project.
Many say they feel they are being "squeezed out" with fierce competition for suitable alternative sites – many of which are being earmarked for new housing developments, it is claimed.
Others fear they may even be forced to shut up shop entirely, leading to lengthy and costly compensation claims.
Resort bosses say the park would be the first development of its kind in Europe for three decades and would provide £50bn of gross economic activity to the UK in its first 25 years.
It suggested the success of Disneyland Paris as a model for how a global theme park could benefit the region saying reports found it added €68bn to the French economy since opening 25 years ago with the Seine-et-Marne area in which it is located gaining €22.4bn.
The company says there will be 48,000 jobs provided in the construction and running of the park by 2038 and it aims to provide half of those for residents in Dartford, Gravesham and Thurrock in Essex.
LRCH asked companies about barriers to growing their business with 36% of respondents saying access to tender opportunities was a major problem, along with lack of networks and recruitment and skills gaps also highlighted.
Andy Martin, strategy and communications director for the London Resort, said the company is "delighted with the response".
He added: "It’s incredibly inspiring to see the range of businesses that share our vision to create one of the most exciting, sustainable entertainment destinations in the world.
"On a project of this scale and complexity, we’ll need different types of suppliers at different stages of the process. For design and construction, the procurement process is underway, operational supplier engagement will come later.
“We are passionate about advancing the skills and careers of local residents and contributing to local economic growth. We’re particularly encouraged to see so many small and locally based businesses registering.
"We’ve also been contacted by global leaders in the industry, demonstrating the appeal of this project. The Register of Interest is helping us understand the wealth of experience, innovation and dynamism that businesses of all shapes and sizes can bring to this unique project.”
The register remains open and can be accessed via the London Resort website.