Published: 10:29, 07 May 2021
| Updated: 10:48, 07 May 2021
Developers behind a multi-billion pound theme park have been granted an abnormal four-month delay to a government review after its chosen site was designated a wildlife haven.
A long awaiting planning application was submitted late December with proposals due to be examined later this year.
But in March Natural England designated the land a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The status granted by the government's environmental advisory group means any future development plans must take into account the abundance and important wildlife in the area.
In response London Resort last month asked for a four-month delay to "address the issues raised".
This was granted by the Planning Inspectorate in light of the SSSI notification and the implications for the "ecological status" of the Kent site.
The government planning arm added that it "would not normally agree to postpone the start of the examination for longer than three months".
But said it was justified in this case to ensure a "fair process" within the statutory six-month examination period.
It explained: "Although the four months sought is longer than that normally expected by the Secretary of State, we recognise that several application documents will require revision to be sufficiently current and to form the basis for the application."
The decision was confirmed by way of a written submission published on its planning portal by Stuart Cowperthwaite, who is leading the inspection, alongside four other panel members.
However, it also considers the impact of the delay on interested parties and sets out strict obligations and deadlines for Resort bosses to meet.
This includes monthly progress reports, a comprehensive list of the documents that will be submitted and a programme setting out when they will be submitted.
In addition, where the Planning Inspectorate accepts any new documents it has asked Resort bosses to clearly explain the reasons for this.
Speaking last month, London Resort chief executive Pierre-Yves Gerbeau said it was "right and proper" to delay and review concerns, adding it was "fundamental" as part of their goal to be "leaders in sustainability".
“Working with the Planning Inspectorate, we have requested further time to prepare for the formal enquiry later this summer," he said.
"We’ve already committed to spending around £150m on remediation, habitat enhancement and providing around 8 miles of footpaths and public rights of way."
He added: "But since Natural England designated the area a SSSI earlier this year – it is right and proper that we take a short extension to revise our reports and ensure they address the issues raised."
However, despite this additional obstacle Resort bosses maintain the project is still "on track" to create a "beacon of world class entertainment and experiences".
Last month it revealed plans for "Base Camp", a new "pre-historic" zone at the park, featuring one of the fastest rollercoasters in Europe.
Alongside the fun and adrenaline, the land is also set to deliver educational opportunities with an enormous play area for youngsters to explore, excavate exciting fossil finds and develop STEM skills.
If approved, the theme park will be the first European development of its kind to be built from scratch since the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992.
The Resort is expected to open in 2024 on a 525 acre plot formerly occupied by a cement works.
It will feature two theme park gates, a water park, conference and convention centre and e-Sports facilities.
Image rights deals have already been struck with the likes of the BBC, ITV and its original namesake, Paramount Pictures.
But the BBC's studio arm was urged to withdraw from the project last month amid claims of incompatibility with its aims of "creating a positive environmental impact".
A formal examination of the plans is scheduled to take place later this year.
The government will then have the final say over whether the plans, earmarked as a nationally significant infrastructure project, will get the go-ahead.