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London Resort theme park on Swanscombe Peninsula application accepted by Planning Inspectorate as project moves to examination phase


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A multi-billion pound theme park plan will be examined during a public inquiry after inspectors accepted the latest stage of the application.

The London Resort – planned for the Swanscombe Peninsula between Gravesend and Dartford – is now set to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate to decide whether planning permission will be granted.

A new detailed impression of what the London Resort theme park will look like
A new detailed impression of what the London Resort theme park will look like

Housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick has accepted the 25,000 page application submitted to the Inspectorate allowing an inquiry to take place on whether to grant a Development Consent Order (DCO).

The £2.5bn scheme has already been accepted as being a nationally significant infrastructure project and a DCO is required to allow building to begin.

Planning inspectors last night published the confirmation moving the proposals into the next stage of the process, which is expected to take between a year and 18 months.

London Resort Company Holdings chief executive PY Gerbeau said: "It’s taken an enormous effort from everyone involved to get to where we are today.

"I want to thank the home team, our investor, our partners and people who supported us for their dedication and incredible commitment.

The London Resort is set to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula. Picture: EDF Energy
The London Resort is set to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula. Picture: EDF Energy

“We have always said our ambition is to build much more than just a theme park. It will be a beacon of world class entertainment and experiences within a world-leading sustainable environment.

"We still have a long way to go and we are very much looking forward to working with the Planning Inspectorate over the coming months.

"But, from where we were, less than 18 months ago, today is a game changer and a very special day to celebrate.”

It is the first phase in a lengthy planning process which means the plans will be scrutinised by government inspectors at the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and is also likely to include public hearings.

Kathryn Dunne, the PINS lead for national infrastructure and environment, wrote to London Resort representatives confirming Mr Jenrick's decision.

The plans were submitted on New Year's Eve and received by the Planning Inspectorate on January 4.

London Resort chief executive PY Gerbeau said the decision is a 'game changer' for the project
London Resort chief executive PY Gerbeau said the decision is a 'game changer' for the project

Inspectors had until Monday to review the application and decide whether to accept it for further examination.

Interested parties – such as local councils, transport operators, government authorities, businesses, residents and environmental groups – will be asked to register to put cases forward on the application. The dates are yet to be published.

The highly controversial project is one of the biggest developments proposed for Kent and damage to the environment of the Swanscombe marshes is expected to be one of the most hotly contested points.

Conservationists have launched a battle to register the land as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to it being home to hundreds of at risk species, including the rare jumping spider, which could threaten the park plans.

Natural England, the government agency tasked with protecting habitats, is set to decide "in early 2021".

Park bosses say the 1,245-acre site, equal to 113 Wembley stadiums, will be the world's first carbon neutral operational theme park.

Artist impression of Arrival Plaza, hotels and market at The London Resort. Picture: The London Resort
Artist impression of Arrival Plaza, hotels and market at The London Resort. Picture: The London Resort

It is claimed it will provide a £50bn boost to the economy in the first 25 years while providing 17,000 jobs by 2038 and 8,700 by 2024 – when it is hoped the first phase of the park will open.

Cllr John Burden (Lab), leader of Gravesham council, said it was an "important milestone and exciting moment" for the borough.

“If approved by the Planning Inspectorate, London Resort will be one of the most significant developments in the history of North West Kent and will have a significant and positive impact on the region‘s economy, an economy that has a challenging period of recovery ahead following the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

“If you are a young person in Gravesham today, finding a job has rarely been more difficult, and our youth unemployment rate is rising at a worrying rate.

“If it goes ahead, London Resort will create many thousands of jobs across a range of skills and abilities, through construction and into the operational phase. From our discussions with the team behind the proposals, we know large numbers of those roles, particularly once the resort is open, will go to local people.

“The knock-on effect on the visitor economy for Gravesend and the wider borough cannot be underestimated either.

"If approved, London Resort will be one of the most significant developments in the history of North West Kent..."

"The development of London Resort would provide a welcome shot in the arm for North West Kent just when it is needed most.

“In drawing up its DCO, London Resort has been open and receptive to the comments and concerns of ourselves and other local stakeholders in terms of traffic and the local environmental impacts of the scheme and we have seen changes to the proposals that address many of the concerns we have raised.

“While we do need some further information so we have a full idea of the arrangements that should be in place during the construction and operation periods to protect our communities, we are confident these can be covered during the DCO examination process and through discussions with London Resort.

“We will, of course, continue to ensure the very best interests of our residents and our Borough are at the forefront of the Planning Inspectorate‘s consideration of the DCO as we prepare our formal response to it."

Transport links and several other aspects relating to the theme park plans will need to be addressed, Kent County Council said.

The authority also mentioned ecology and biodiversity on the Peninsula with several important species, provision for remote recreational green space and the impact on businesses which provide jobs and income to the area already.

KCC says the site is one of the UK's "foremost archaeological locations" which also features extensive 19th and 20th century industrial heritage.

Cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Mike Whiting, said: “These are ambitious plans and the project timing and phasing are challenging.

“To ensure that these new job opportunities are available to people across the county, KCC will be working with our partners in the Employment Task Force to put in place the right employment and skills strategy.”

Caroline Green, spokesman for Dartford Council said: "This is clearly a hugely important proposal, but we have always made clear that the devil is in the detail and Dartford Borough Council will continue to press home the concerns and demands of local people.

"There must be a workable solution to traffic issues and real mitigations for the existing communities and the natural environment.

The council said it also wanted to see a a clear strategy for local businesses.

Swanscombe Marshes where there are plans to build the London Resort theme park
Swanscombe Marshes where there are plans to build the London Resort theme park

"There are great opportunities for the local economy but some will also face uncertainty and displacement," it said.

"The test for us will be to see that those businesses are treated fairly. The decision whether or not to approve the application will be taken by the Secretary of State on recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, but the Council, as a consultee, will continue to make these points to the Examining Authority in the months ahead.

"Nothing we are asking for is unreasonable, in fact, it will give LRCH the opportunity to demonstrate that it takes seriously the responsibilities it has to the area, its people, and the environment.

"There has been a new sense of energy to these proposals in recent months and LRCH are clearly serious and ambitious. The project timing and phasing are challenging but every step is crucial and we will be watching to ensure that the issues that matter to local people are addressed."

The main access for the park proposed by London Resort will be from the A2 with a new dedicated road link, railway stations and a new dedicated ferry service.

Managing director of the KenEx tram link project, which is bidding to open a tram link between Kent and Essex, believes it could also serve the park, and congratulated the London Resort team for the latest victory in their bid to win approval.

Gordon Pratt said: "I would like to congratulate the London Resort team on the immense progress they have made in bringing their planning application through to this stage. This is an exciting opportunity for the Thames Gateway region.

"KenEx is in an ideal position to provide the necessary fast and regular connectivity needed by the exciting London Resort development.

"Providing a popular solution able to accommodate expected passenger flows, north Kent would benefit significantly from enhanced local transport opportunities, not just for the London Resort but also for local residents."

Caroline Green, spokesman for Dartford Council said: "This is clearly a hugely important proposal, but we have always made clear that the devil is in the detail and Dartford Borough Council will continue to press home the concerns and demands of local people.

"There must be a workable solution to traffic issues and real mitigations for the existing communities and the natural environment.

The council said it also wanted to see a a clear strategy for local businesses.

"There are great opportunities for the local economy but some will also face uncertainty and displacement," it said.

"The test for us will be to see that those businesses are treated fairly. The decision whether or not to approve the application will be taken by the Secretary of State on recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, but the Council, as a consultee, will continue to make these points to the Examining Authority in the months ahead.

"Nothing we are asking for is unreasonable, in fact, it will give LRCH the opportunity to demonstrate that it takes seriously the responsibilities it has to the area, its people, and the environment.

"There has been a new sense of energy to these proposals in recent months and LRCH are clearly serious and ambitious. The project timing and phasing are challenging but every step is crucial and we will be watching to ensure that the issues that matter to local people are addressed."

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