Published: 08:00, 15 March 2016
| Updated: 09:18, 15 March 2016
Doug Hilton knows he is a thorn in the side of plans to build a London Paramount entertainment resort in Kent.
He owns the roads and sizeable chunks of land around Northfleet Industrial Estate, Kraft Kent Estate and Manor Way Business Park, all sitting in the middle of the site where developers want to build the £3.2 billion attraction on the Swanscombe Peninsula.
He is part of the Peninsula Management Group, a lobbying body representing about 140 companies working on the business parks, which it says employ 4,500 people and generate turnover of £200 million annually.
Tenants and landowners, he says, are prepared to relocate elsewhere and want to talk to London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), the development firm that wants to open the park by 2021.
They will not, however, go without compensation, which they estimate should be in the region of about £500 million.
“No one here has said they want to die in front of a Paramount bulldozer,” said Mr Hilton. “We don’t hate them, but if we have to go, it must be done efficiently, sustainably and generously.
“At the moment, the compensation figures we have talked to them about will not allow anyone to go anywhere else. They want to pay the absolute minimum.”
The dispute, which LRCH is furious is being played out in public, has potentially far-reaching consequences for the resort.
Last year, developers delayed their planning application for a second time to the summer of this year, saying they needed more time to create a thorough submission for Greg Clark,
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who will make the final decision on whether it is approved.
Peninsula Management Group says no meaningful negotiations have taken place with businesses on the site, with relocation expected to take at least another 18 months to complete.
Spokesman Dan Bramwell said: “They have got to demonstrate they have made approaches to businesses and made offers to them and been in negotiations with them.
“They have got to demonstrate all that to win a development consent order and they are not doing it.”
The Peninsula Management Group is not the only organisation raising questions about the resort plans, which LRCH says will create 27,000 jobs.
In October, Paul Kelly, the chief executive of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, wrote to former Planning Inspectorate chief executive Paul Ridley outlining his concerns about the resort.
“We don’t hate them, but if we have to go, it must be done efficiently, sustainably and generously..." - Doug Hilton, Peninsula Management Group
It described projections that London Paramount would attract 15 million tourists a year as “ambitious” and a “remarkable figure” given it is a similar size to the country’s entire existing theme park industry.
He also raised concerns that the resort would cannibalise the tourism industry in London or become a “white elephant” that failed to deliver its promises.
A response from Susannah Guest at the Planning Inspectorate said any concerned parties could submit their comments at the appropriate time.
London Paramount chief executive David Testa said: “We don’t agree with BALPPA, nor do many other organisations with whom we’re working in partnership.
“This will be the only global resort in the UK – you have to recognise that we will be bringing in additional visitors to the country and we’re entirely confident about our visitor projections.”
The Peninsula Management Group thinks developers are unlikely to submit a planning application for London Paramount this summer.
It predicts negotiations to move the businesses will realistically take at least 18 months because moving the tenants will not be an easy task.
“If you look around Kent, this kind of commercial property is simply not available,” said Mr Hilton.
“We are trying to squeeze into a pot which is already full. These businesses are a serious, long-term issue.”
The group also highlighted the social effect of moving such a large workforce away.
It estimates 2,500 people are employed directly at the 140 businesses on the three estates, with another 2,000 employed indirectly.
Mr Hilton said: “This is a highly suitable estate for its tenants. A lot of businesses have been here a long time and live locally.
"Their families live locally and work in the business. If this estate is to go, it will have a much bigger, more dramatic impact.”
Locate in Kent, an agency that tries to attract investment to the county and finds new premises for businesses, admitted the situation facing the businesses was “challenging”.
Director of business development Peter Symons said: “It’s a very difficult situation all round.
"Paramount offers a wonderful opportunity for a huge amount of employment, but we wouldn’t want to lose any existing jobs.
“It is very unsettling for businesses already there and we will be as supportive as we can.”