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Swanscombe firms submit claims for costs due to £2.5bn London Resort theme park delays and claims of hampered trade


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Dozens of businesses threatened with eviction due to proposals for a multi-billion pound theme park have submitted claims for costs over trade and job losses.

Firms operating in Swanscombe and Northfleet on land where London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH) wants to build its £2.5bn attraction claim they have suffered financial and "emotional" hardship owing to the developer's "unreasonable behaviour".

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

The Disneyland-style rival – encompassing themed rides, hotels and a water park – would cover 1,245 acres, a space equivalent to roughly 113 Wembley stadiums.

But an 11th hour decision was recently made to pull the application ahead of a crunch meeting with The Planning Inspectorate (PINS), the body tasked with determining the bid.

Theme park bosses say a "world class" entertainment resort is still achievable and a fresh application will be re-submitted later this year.

If delivered, it aims to be the first operationally carbon neutral theme park, delivering a net biodiversity gain alongside improvements to the roads, such as an access route from the A2, as well as more than 35,000 jobs.

But businesses on the Swanscombe industrial estates have now submitted several claims for costs against LRCH, estimated to be at least in the "tens of thousands" for the "emotional and mental turmoil".

A view via Google Earth of where the London Resort would be built in Kent

It comes as many firms argue they have spent large amounts of time and incurred significant expense challenging the proposals first mooted in 2012 and formally designated as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) in 2014.

Businesses claim the "severe blight" over the last decade has left them "heavily out of pocket" and resulted in job losses and missed investment opportunities.

Dan Bramwell of the Peninsula Management Group (PMG) – which represents over 100 businesses and landowners on Swanscombe Peninsula – said the total loss to firms was "unmeasurable".

"It's impossible to put a figure on the costs being claimed at this stage but the amount of time expended by PMG and the individual businesses is very substantial," he said.

"We are only allowed to claim for the costs and time spent on the project since the development consent order (DCO) was submitted but many businesses and individuals have been working on matters since the very start in 2012 and from when the project was given NSIP status in 2014.

"It must be appreciated that we are all heavily out of pocket from trying to challenge the applicant and engage with them."

Dan Bramwell, spokesman of The Peninsula Management Group in Swanscombe. Picture: John Westhrop
Dan Bramwell, spokesman of The Peninsula Management Group in Swanscombe. Picture: John Westhrop

Businessman Doug Hilton said his companies had spent hundreds of hours and "tens of thousands of pounds" on advice, not to mention "being unable to raise rents due to the blight".

He added: "It is quite right that PINS is permitting costs recovery against them for their vexatious DCO submission as it is only when it begins to hurt them seriously that they will stop this bizarre game."

London Resort declined to comments on the costs applications but chief executive PY Gerbeau says his team is still "100% committed" to the project and vowed to "make it happen".

Speaking in March, he said: “In the best interests of the London Resort, we are withdrawing the current application; as a result of the classification of Tilbury as a Freeport which has meant revisions are required in moving the ferry terminal from Tilbury to Grays."

LRCH says it is "working closely and collaborating with Thurrock Council on that matter" ahead of its plans for resubmission.

But the Swanscombe businesses have contended assertions that the project was withdrawn on this basis, adding "it is inconceivable" that the applicant did not know prior to submitting its application.

They claim its "park and glide" proposals were undeliverable even before the application was submitted.

Objectors to the bid, including Transport for London, Network Rail and local government leaders, have also warned of the impact on rail lines and key roads.

The site was chosen in part due to its proximity to Ebbsfleet International Station
The site was chosen in part due to its proximity to Ebbsfleet International Station

The site was partially chosen because of its proximity to Ebbsfleet International Station, 17 minutes from central London.

HS1 Ltd which operates the High Speed 1 route and its stations, including Ebbsfleet under a concession from the British government, has raised concerns.

London Resort had earlier indicated up to 64% of its visitors within an hour's distance would be able to access the park by rail but says only 30% would need to do so.

But rail bosses believes the true figure will be much higher if the park goes ahead, requiring various stations to be upgraded.

Several local authorities and planning bodies – including Dartford council, Kent County Council and the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) – are also now seeking to recover costs over "wasted time and effort".

EDC says the plans have stalled the development of Ebbsfleet Garden City, where 15,000 homes are planned.

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite said the London Resort should acknowledge the impact the proposals have had on existing businesses.
Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite said the London Resort should acknowledge the impact the proposals have had on existing businesses.

Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite said LRCH should recognise and acknowledge the damage caused to local businesses.

"My first, last and only concern is the businesses and the local community," said the Tory leader.

"I don't operate on the basis of giving the developers the benefit of the doubt any more. They have got to convince without any prejudice."

Cllr Kite added if the theme park bosses come back to the table they ought to address key concerns and promise "money in escrow" to the businesses as a sign of good faith.

The decision last year to designate the Swanscombe Peninsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) has also impacted the project.

It follows a campaign led by various campaign groups – including Buglife, CPRE Kent and Kent Wildlife Trust – all of which have now submitted their own claims for costs.

Campaigners have protested against plans to build a theme park on parts of the Swanscombe Marshes. Photo: Save Swanscombe Peninsula
Campaigners have protested against plans to build a theme park on parts of the Swanscombe Marshes. Photo: Save Swanscombe Peninsula

Mark Warnett, of the Save Swanscombe Peninsula group, has called for the scheme to be scrapped.

He said: "Over the past 18 months we have become wearily accustomed to LRCH’s failures.

"Meanwhile, local authority’s government bodies and affected businesses had to incur significant costs to prepare for the DCO, that LRCH eventually had to withdraw.

"It is unacceptable that taxpayers and blighted businesses should have to pay for LRCH’s failures and it is high time the scheme was permanently cancelled."

All cost claims will now be considered by PINS.

London Resort chief executive PY Gerbeau says plans will be submitted later this year
London Resort chief executive PY Gerbeau says plans will be submitted later this year

Developers behind the proposals say the scheme – still backed by Thurrock and Gravesham councils – would bring much- needed jobs, regeneration and investment into the area.

PY Gerbeau said: "We in turn have acquired significant land holdings as part of our mitigation strategy combined with our commitment to spend £150m on environmental improvements on the peninsula."

Earlier this month it was revealed the Resort was still selling up-market hotel rooms on the park at £370k despite plans being temporarily shelved.

In September 2020, LRCH raised a total of £10m in new funding, half of which was received from parties and investors and matched by the UK government backed Future Fund.

The company previously paid £1m to landowners Swanscombe Development LLP to extend an option to buy land wanted for the park until 2023, subject to certain conditions being met.

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