Published: 11:29, 24 April 2020
| Updated: 12:13, 24 April 2020
The mastermind behind plans for an ambitious £5 billion entertainment resort in Kent has recovered from coronavirus.
The French entrepreneur honed his craft at Disneyland Paris but is perhaps best known as salvaging the heavily criticised London Millennium Dome.
Fast forward 20 years and similar challenges lie ahead for the London Resort chief executive as the project, which had originally planned to open this year, has been parked until at least 2024.
No work has yet commenced on the project's site first announced in 2012 as bosses iron out crucial components, including upscaling the existing road infrastructure.
A planning application has now been pushed back from its original Spring date until atleast October.
The Planning Inspectorate, which will assess the proposal, noted: "The applicant has subsequently updated the Inspectorate on the intended submission date, which they have now advised will be Q4 2020."
It added: "It is not uncommon for applicants to change the estimated submission date throughout the pre-application stage due to a host of factors."
Theme park bosses suffered a setback to plans when PY, as he is known, contracted Covid-19.
Speaking to KentOnline, director of communications at London Resort, Andy Martin, confirmed the 54-year-old businessman has since recovered.
"It knocked him out for a couple of weeks," he said. "But he was propped up in bed with an iPad getting the show on the road."
Now he says theme park bosses are more determined than ever to deliver the project, adding "our ambition for the creating a world class resort remains unchanged."
The project was the first "business or commercial project" to be earmarked as a "Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project" (NSIP).
Such major infrastructure projects hold special status which allows them to bypass local planning requirements but they must obtain a development consent order to commence work.
In an October meeting with the government body theme park bosses gave updates on the potential attractions the project would feature, including "futuristic" ideas such as esports arenas and other forms of immersive technologies.
The London Resort has struck deals with the BBC, ITV Studios to lend naming rights to rides and attractions, as well as Paramount Pictures which rejoined the project after an initial u-turn.
It also stated that they would be looking to create a modal shift away from cars and increase the use of public transport for the development.
Meanwhile businesses on the Swanscombe land say they are operating with a "blight over them".
Repeat delays to the application led Dartford MP Gareth Johnson to say theme park bosses were now drinking "in the last chance saloon" amid fears the project is now endangering jobs.
But London Resort communciations director, Andy Martin maintains the project is still on course and said delays were not uncommon for a complex project of this size.
He said theme park bosses were holding Zoom calls with all concerned parties and fine-tuning their master plans.
Changes to the application timetable were agreed in advance, he added, with complex considerations such as the planned works for the A2 near Ebbsfleet, and the ongoing Lower Thames Crossing proposal factored in.
The London Resort has held five preliminary rounds of consultation but the communications chief remained confident there would be an appetite for a theme park post-coronavirus.
"What we're in the process of doing is we are talking with local authorities about what public consultation looks like in Covid-19," he said.
"It is too early to say what the impact of Covid-19 will be on the industry."
The full application is now expected to be submitted in Autumn, to be followed by a further public consultation.
There will then be 28 days to review the application and decide whether or not to accept it for examination.
More by this authorSean Delaney
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