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Kent's Disneyland London Resort in Swanscombe in the 'last chance saloon'

An MP has said bosses behind an ambitious £5billion entertainment resort are drinking "in the last chance saloon" amid fears the project is now endangering jobs.

The London Resort project was first announced in 2012 and is planned for a site on the Swanscombe Peninsula.

Originally due to open in 2019, it has yet to see any movement on the site, prompting a local MP to warn time is running out to deliver on the promises.

A timeline of developments relating to the London Resort project to date.
A timeline of developments relating to the London Resort project to date.

But work is yet to begin on the marshland and has now been parked until at least 2024 while bosses seek to find answers to crucial components, including upscaling the already under pressure road infrastructure.

Now Dartford MP Gareth Johnson believes we are getting very close to the point where it should be removed from the agenda altogether.

He said developers behind the amusement park were "drinking in the last chance saloon".

"There was a time when people were quite excited about the prospect of a theme park and the jobs it would create, but people are also understandably concerned about the traffic, congestion and disruption it would bring."

So far, he believes nothing has been tabled to allay those fears.

Gareth Johnson has expressed serious concern about the impact on local jobs if uncertainty is allowed to drag on.
Gareth Johnson has expressed serious concern about the impact on local jobs if uncertainty is allowed to drag on.

"The developers have never explained how they will address the traffic problems," he said.

"I don't believe they have the resources or the vision needed to build the theme park without adding to Dartford's traffic problem."

He also expressed his concern that a project tipped to bring in investment and opportunity was now likely to "impact on jobs".

If eventually dropped he hopes the area will be kept as a site of "industrial or scientific" interest rather than more homes adding to the area's traffic woes.

The MP has lent his support to the more than 140 businesses currently operating on the industrial estate and has requested a response from the Business Minister.

During the last parliamentary session he told the House of Commons: "They simply do not know when they will be required to leave the site and make way for the theme park to be built. No business can operate successfully in this way.

"Would the Minister commit to working with the the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to do all it can to support those businesses who find themselves in that situation?”

An aerial CGI image of what the London Resort, on Swanscombe Peninsula, will look like. Picture: LRHC
An aerial CGI image of what the London Resort, on Swanscombe Peninsula, will look like. Picture: LRHC

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.

They are designed to make the process much quicker, removing the need to obtain multiple separate consent orders.

But the last meeting with the developers listed on the portal of The Planning Inspectorate – the government body tasked with making decisions and advising on such applications – took place in March.

The Inspectorate asked whether the proposed road improvements amounted to a NSIP in their own right.

Theme Park bosses said this was not yet clear, adding "considerable engagement has been undertaken with statutory consultees around the design of the highways works".

Andy Martin of the London Resort says the project is still on course.
Andy Martin of the London Resort says the project is still on course.

Earlier this month it was revealed the company behind the project had racked up losses of more than £50 million.

But director of communications and strategy at London Resort, Andy Martin, hastened to point out this was not unusual for a "complex" project of its undertaking, adding the scheme was still on course.

"There are not any stumbling blocks, it's just about getting the time right," he said, adding they were dealing with "huge amounts of information"

All of which he said would need to be addressed before the final plans are submitted.

Billed Britain's answer to Disneyland, the Swanscombe amusement park's journey has been something of a rollercoaster ride.

It nearly came off the tracks altogether when Hollywood studio Paramount – which had originally signed a naming rights deal for the project at its launch – pulled out.

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

This would have allowed the park to use some of its major movie names for rides and attractions, such as Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and even The Italian Job.

However, Paramount has since come back on board, alongside BBC and ITV which will lend image rights from the broadcaster's portfolio.

The company also paid £1m to Swanscombe Development LLP in March to extend an option to buy the land until 2023, subject to certain conditions being met by December 23.

It is understood the £3.3m will be deducted from the purchase price if the entertainment resort gets the green light.

Mr Martin, said they had secured around "85% of the land needed" and this option would allow them to go forward.

The full planning application is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate before Spring, 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.

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