Wednesday, September 9, 2015

News: Gulliver's in talks to open multimillion pound theme park in Rotherham

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Gulliver's Family Theme Parks are in discussions to locate a new family entertainment resort on the Pithouse West site in Rotherham.

The council has long had ambitions for the greenbelt site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a national and international scale.


In August 2011 the Council confirmed leisure organisation China Vision Ltd and regeneration specialist MCD Developments as the preferred developers for the site, located to the north of Rother Valley Country Park (pictured, below).

Last year, the council's now defunct cabinet decided to enter into discussions with any other parties who were interested in developing the site as they were not able to satisfy themselves by the Visions of China project that sufficient progress was being made.

The site was made available for development proposals earlier this year with the Council seeking development partners to submit applications to develop a nationally significant leisure development.

Having previously come forward for discussions with the Council in 2014, Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes, looks set to be named as the latest preferred developer.

Gulliver's is proposing to purchase the entire 333 acres site, to create "Gulliver's Valley" Resort - the first of their sites in the UK to encompass all their major family entertainment elements in one location with new attractions exclusive to Rotherham. The development is expected to be funded through business profits with no borrowing requirements.
The main components of the proposal include a year round theme park, aimed at 2 - 13 year olds, which offers rides, attractions, soft play, and indoor fun centred on themed areas around the main fairytale castle. To complement this, a number of "hub attractions" will also be provided including a Splash Zone, Nerf Zone, Adventure Zone, Gully Town Tots, the Main Street which comprises multiple venues to attract the target age range, and a Big G diner.

Expected to be built in four or five phases over 12 years, the regeneration benefits are an estimated £36.66m overall economic impact from construction, total annual operating net economic impact on the local economy of £11.6m and between 160-255 jobs (when operational) with "employment created at entry level positions through to skilled professionals and employment opportunities created for younger members of the local population." An estimated 120 construction jobs would be created over the phases of the development.

Complementing Rother Valley Country Park, phase 2 would see the site further developed with a camping and caravan site, a Woodland Adventure Centre offering outdoor obstacle courses, high ropes, zip wires etc., and an Education and Ecology Centre which will offer a forest classroom environment for school children, community groups and visitors from across the region to use the natural landscape.
Phase 3 would see the introduction of a Gulliver's hotel offering 100 bedroom accommodation for families and business visitors with specially themed family suites, woodland lodges and treehouses, a village centre surrounding a lake and encompassing a spa and fitness centre, restaurant, craft centre, wedding chapel, fishing lodge and resort trails where visitors and local residents can walk, run and cycle for exercise.

Phases 4 and 5 would complete the 300 woodland lodges, and see the development of a "Dream Village" concept offering specially designed and adapted accommodation where seriously and terminally ill children and children with special needs can enjoy cost free respite weeks and getaways with the theme park and attractions on the doorstep.
Commissioner Julie Kenny has now made the "minded to" decision to enable the Council to negotiate the completion of the sale with some further work required to protect the Council's interests and to facilitate a deliverable leisure development. This covers further detail on the operation of some aspects of the proposal, issues regarding the planning process and details on robust project management.

It is anticipated that officers will be negotiating the final terms of the sale agreement over the coming 6-8 weeks. This will enable Gulliver's to prepare and submit a planning application prior to the expiry of the existing outline planning consent in December 2015.

This will be the third time the Council has sought interested from developers. Outline planning approval was granted for the £350m YES! Project in 2007 and updated plans were approved in September 2010.

Gulliver's website

Images: Gulliver's / RMBC

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