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Gravesham council backs £2.5bn London Resort theme park plans on the Swanscombe Peninsula as area 'desperately needs jobs'

A council has backed controversial proposals for a multi-billion pound theme park, explaining the area "desperately needs jobs".

Gravesham council has confirmed it supports plans for the London Resort, first earmarked for the Swanscombe Peninsula between Dartford and Gravesend, more than ten years ago.

A detailed impression of what the London Resort theme park could look like
A detailed impression of what the London Resort theme park could look like

It says it will back the project provided the benefits to the local economy are "maximised" and "impacts minimised".

In a letter to the Planning Inspectorate, ahead of a crunch meeting on the developer's plans later this month, the council said it would be supportive of a full hearing taking place later this year.

Whilst backing the plans "in principle", the authority says this is conditional on progress being made on outstanding issues the developers have been asked to consider.

Explaining the authority’s position, Cllr John Burden, Leader of Gravesham council, said: “While we are sympathetic to the concerns delays to the planning process are causing for businesses and landowners on the peninsula, we are also very conscious of the potential economic benefits this project could bring to an area that desperately needs job creation.

“We are under increasing pressure to meet challenging government housing targets.

Gravesham council leader John Burden says the area desperately needs jobs
Gravesham council leader John Burden says the area desperately needs jobs

"Here in Gravesham we are already required to presume in favour of sustainable developments after the government ruled we are missing our housebuilding target.

“Add to that the thousands of new homes being built at Ebbsfleet Garden City, and we really need to think about where the jobs are going to come from for the increased population to find work."

But support for the bid comes amid ongoing concerns over its impact on traffic, settlements for local businesses threatened with eviction and the site's new-found status as a nature haven.

Billed as the UK's answer to Disneyland, the £2.5bn park aims to be one of Europe's largest leisure and hospitality offerings with more than 100 hectares of marshland – equivalent to 140 football pitches – set aside for rides, hotels, bars and other event spaces.

The developers, London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), claim the attraction will transform a "largely brownfield former industrial site" and create nearly 50,000 jobs.

Gravesham's Labour leader said this component should not be overlooked, adding: "We should not dismiss the importance of that to our local economy lightly".

The London Resort is earmarked to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula. Picture: EDF Energy
The London Resort is earmarked to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula. Picture: EDF Energy

He went on to explain how the development could also contribute to the improvement of key infrastructure across the region through "significant" financial contributions.

Cllr Burden said: “We all know our health services are stretched, as are our schools and colleges.

"With the carefully thought through use of measures such as Section 106 agreements, the development of London Resort could be a trigger for investment in much needed improvements in those areas.

“Of course we understand a development of this scale brings with it challenges and concerns, but these need to be weighed very carefully and consideration given to whether the benefits outweigh the negative impacts.”

But the park is not without its critics.

Earlier this week Dartford's MP Gareth Johnson officially withdrew his support for the plans which include large parts of an SSSI protected nature site, explaining he had "run out of patience".

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson has withdrawn his support from the project

The Tory MP, who had initially entertained the prospect of the park, said he has now "lost confidence" in the developer's ability to deliver.

He had also grown increasingly frustrated over a perceived lack of engagement with local residents, councils and affected businesses – who likened the threat of eviction from nearby industrial estates to "like being on death row".

Mr Johnson said: "Far from being the job provider we all hoped for, it is actually costing jobs."

The London Resort was the first commercial venture to be designated as a “nationally significant infrastructure project” by the government.

It means developers can bypass local planning processes and go straight to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government to seek consent for the project.

If built, it will be the first European development of its kind to be built from scratch since the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992.

Developers are planning to open the park in two stages with the first "gate" opening in 2025 and the second within five years.

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