Tuesday, May 31, 2016

News: Gulliver's land deal on track

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The sale of 250 acres of land for the £37m Gulliver's Family Theme Park resort can now be signed off after it was nodded through by the lead commissioner at Rotherham Council.

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.

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).

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Commissioner Sir Derek Myers approved the disposal of the Pithouse West site at a meeting last week. Council officers in the Regeneration and Environment and Legal departments are now authorised to conclude the sale on the heads of terms already agreed.

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.

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.

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.

Cllr. Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "This represents a really exciting opportunity for Rotherham in terms of development for families but also for economic development, fetching approximately 255 jobs which will be created on this site. In addition to this there will be another 130 jobs approximately within the construction industry."

Damien Wilson, newly installed strategic director for Regeneration and Environment, talked about the importance of the deal. He told the meeting: "It is a real "good news story" for Rotherham that we are able to land this investment. This is significant ongoing investment over a 12 year period as the different phases are developed.

"It represents economic growth in a new sector - tourism is an area that we are trying to develop which is emphasised as part of the growth strategy. It also represents further diversification of the economy - a new area of work where we can create more investment opportunities.

"Importantly it is also a link, or an anchor point, in the borough for a major tourism draw. And if we link that with Wentworth [Woodhouse], and the developments we are likely to achieve in that area as well, you can see further reasons why people would come to the borough to visit, and perhaps to stay.

"There are risks, there's still risks around planning, and still risks around access, so there are certain things that we will have to overcome if we are to land this investment but there is a project team approach to this and we are working very, very closely with Gulliver's project team and our own team to ensure that we can overcome these key issues."

The sale will be dependent on securing planning permission. The latest agreement includes conditions that specify that a planning application from Gulliver's must be submitted by September 2016.

The excluded area at the North West will now be retained by the Council.

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.

Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "We've waited a long time for a project that seems this tangible and this close to delivery, even allowing for the hurdles still to be cleared so we wish it well."

Decisions made by commissioners cannot be called in.

Gulliver's Valley website

Images: Gulliver's

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