Published: 17:43, 01 December 2021
| Updated: 17:45, 01 December 2021
The man behind plans for a multi-billion pound entertainment resort has pledged there will be no "material changes" to its bid despite the site's new-found protected nature status.
Large parcels of land on the Swanscombe Peninsula have been earmarked for development into a £2.5bn theme park dubbed the London Resort.
That target was one of many missed and the project continues to be fraught with delays with an examination phase yet to get underway and developers granted an extension to address ongoing concerns.
Last month, another bump occurred after a decision was taken by Natural England to confirm the pensinsula as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) owing to its grassland, wetlands, birds, and invertebrate species, including a rare jumping spider.
But the boss at the helm of the project, which has been dubbed the UK's answer to Disneyland, has vowed it will be built despite the "naysayers and doom-mongers".
London Resort Chief executive PY Gerbeau has now responded to the SSSI status and requests by the Planning Inspectorate, the executive agency tasked by the government with reviewing the application.
The French entrepreneur, who masterminded the reversal in fortunes of the Millenium Dome, now the 02 in Greenwich, says there will be no "material changes" to the bid.
In a letter posted to the Planning Inspectorate, he labelled the decision to designate the site an SSSI "erroneous", adding it was not the best means of achieving a "balance between the economic and environmental objectives for the site".
During its summation of the SSSI decision, Natural England chair Tony Juniper said: “In confirming the designation today Natural England again reiterated its commitment to continuing to work with developers and planners to ensure that nature can thrive alongside developments proposed for this area.”
Mr Gerbeau reaffirmed that in response changes would not be "material" and would be limited to "subtle" designs to preserve a greater area of protected habitat outside of the Resort.
However, the resort boss committed to working with the government's nature adviser to agree how to avoid or mitigate impacts upon the site and establish a statement of "common ground".
Criticisms have also been levelled at the developers for "failing to engage" with local authorities and businesses over their concerns.
In particular, councils said they were concerned about a lack of documents coming forward, vague deadlines, and a lack of response to requests for clarity on specific matters, including transport.
However, in the same letter addressed to the Planning Inspectorate, PY Gerbeau outlined the Resort's commitment to re-instate monthly progress reports.
He said: "We remain committed to providing the examining authority with the new and updated documents as previously promised.
"We can also confirm, as previously indicated that we will be addressing the full range of issues in relation to time-dependant information being sufficiently current and will, as a matter of normal process in any examination, be supplementing our reports with additional information."
Meanwhile, local businesses subject to controversial compulsory purchase powers on the surrounding business estates, claim the development has "paralysed" their futures.
In another representation accepted by the Planning Inspectorate firms on the Northfleet Estates claimed timescales had been repeatedly missed by the developers.
They also said costly legal bills had come out of their own pocket to engage lawyers to trawl through the various documents.
But Resort bosses say they have courted and listened to feedback throughout the entire process.
Speaking previously, a spokesman said: "The inspectorate reviewed our application and more than 50 additional documents were provided by interested parties, including those relating to boundary disputes and site misrepresentations.
"Having reviewed everything, the Planning Inspectorate concluded that our application met the standards required to be accepted for examination.
"We would suggest that any and all complaints or queries about the process of the application be made to the Planning Inspectorate."
Earlier this year London Resort released new details of the park including one of Europe's fastest rollercoasters and has released details of the firms who signed up to helpdeliver the project.
It was hoped the first phase of the Kuwaiti-backed £2.5bn project will open in 2024 with work commencing next year.
But the beginning date has now been pencilled in by planning inspectors to launch in April – more than 13 months after the plans submitted at the start of this year were accepted for review.
London Resort was contacted for further comment.