Thursday, May 19, 2016

News: Gulliver's Valley land deal set to be signed

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A land deal that will enable the creation of a £37m Gulliver's Family Theme Park resort on the Pithouse West site in Rotherham is set to be approved by commissioners at the Council next week.

The authority made the "minded to" decision last year to enable them to negotiate the completion of the sale of 333 acres of greenbelt land located to the north of Rother Valley Country Park.

Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes developed an initial masterplan for 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. When it is up and running there are likely to be 400 jobs at the park, a number that was likely to increase. Hundreds of jobs would be created through the construction period which is set to be sustainable and done by in-house and local suppliers.

The proposals for a year round destination aimed at 2 - 13 year olds include a theme park hub, woodland adventure centre, ecology and education centre, camping, up to 300 lodges, a hotel and holiday village. Expected to be built in four or five phases over 12 years, the theme park would come first and further developments would follow afterwards.

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As a result of comments received at the pre-application public consultation on the development proposals and information gained during Gulliver's due diligence exercise that identified potential ground contamination on the site of the former Brookhouse Colliery, Gulliver's submitted a revised proposal to the Council to buy a reduced area of the site (approximately 250 acres rather than the full 330 acres).

The excluded area at the North West will now be retained by the Council, which is already developing a business case to look at the potential provision of caravanning and camping facilities at the country park.

The revised development proposal has not yet been out to consultation but it will still provide essentially the same scheme as previously consulted on albeit over a different development area.

Officers at the Council and Gullivers have agreed in principle the Heads of Terms for the sale, which will be dependent on securing planning permission.

The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but it is said it will generate "a significant capital receipt for the Council."
Discussions have also resulted in the Coal Authority, who sold the land to the Council for £195,000 in 2001, agreeing to the "clawback payments" and the removal of restrictions relating to the country park. Previous agreements would have meant that 50% of any uplift in value would have to be paid to the Coal Authority.

The Council has long had ambitions for the site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a national and international scale. Agreements relating to the YES! project and Visions of China developments were terminated due to the lack of progress.

The latest agreement includes conditions that specify that a planning application from Gulliver's must be submitted by September 2016.
A report to the Council's Cabinet/Commissioners' Decision Making Meeting states: "Should the development proceed, it will make a positive contribution to Rotherham's tourism offer with increasing visitor numbers to the development itself and potential for significant positive impacts on the adjacent Rother Valley Country Park. Officers are looking at what complimentary activities and projects could be offered and delivered to capitalise on this major visitor offer.

"The development will also offer overnight accommodation and potential exists for the development of a new market aimed at family short stays when packaged with other local attractions around the Borough, the City Region and beyond."

Gulliver's Valley website

Images: Gulliver's

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