Friday, February 17, 2017

News: Planning milestone for £37m Gulliver's Valley development

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A rollercoaster of a story in the redevelopment of the Pit House West site in Rotherham is the closest it has ever been to becoming a reality with the approval of detailed, deliverable, plans for a £37m leisure resort from an established company with its own finances already in place.

Rothbiz was first with the details when the full plans were submitted in October. The proposals, which will create around 400 jobs, will see Gulliver's buy approximately 250 acres from the Council. The restored former colliery and opencast site will be transformed into a year round destination aimed at 2 - 13 year olds and is set to include a theme park hub, woodland adventure centre, ecology and education centre, lodges, hotels and a holiday village.

Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes, has now secured unanimous approval from the planning board at Rotherham Council and is keen to begin work on site.

Due to its prominence, The National Planning Casework Unit will be given the opportunity to "call in" the application on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Gulliver's now has 21 days to wait for the decision of the Secretary of State on their application.

Following planning approval, the scheme is expected to be built over 12 - 15 years, the theme park would come first and further developments would follow afterwards.

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Julie Dalton, managing director of the Gulliver's group, said: "Everyone at Gulliver's is very pleased with the Council's decision which takes us to the next stage of the planning process.

"We are confident that the Secretary of State will recognise the enormous benefit of our plans to the Rother Valley area and the local community. Our plans would transform an area of Rother Valley that has been disused for many years."

Rotherham Council has long had ambitions for the greenbelt site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a regional, national and international scale. The reclamation of Brookhouse Colliery and incorporation into the Rother Valley Country Park to enhance its attraction as a regional facility was first mooted when the colliery operations closed in 1985. After purchasing the site from the Coal Authority, the council began the search for a developer in March 2002.

This is 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.

Developers, Oak Holdings were dropped for a lack of progress and the £110m Visions of China project was the preferred choice of the authority in 2011. Having previously come forward for discussions with the Council in 2014, Gulliver's entered into an agreement to purchase the land from the Council in 2015 after the Visions of China project was also dropped.
Planning approval for 215,000 sq ft of buildings come with a number of conditions, including operating hours, and a £1.2m transport improvement scheme is already underway in the area.

Further details of the attractions set for Gulliver's Valley, including Liliput Castle, a log flume, Antelope, Pirate Coaster, Tower Ride, farm park and pet resort, can be found here.

Special circumstances for development in the Green Belt were agreed, namely the positive economic impact, and Gulliver's will enter a legal agreement to ensure that the hotels and accommodation will not come forward without the theme park elements.
Julie Dalton told members of the planning board: "As a family and a company we are committed to bringing forward the long-standing aspiration for a regional scale leisure and tourism attraction on the Rother Valley Country Park. Gulliver's is a sustainable family business with a proven track record for designing, building and running family entertainment developments, and have done for 39 years.

"We know exactly what families are looking for in a day out and a short break, and that is what we have designed into this resort. Pit House West is a very attractive site and we have put lots of time and energy into designing our attraction around the site so we can make best use of its natural assets.

"This will be the first of the Gulliver's sites to incorporate everything we have on our other sites, and it's got quite a few new elements that you don't see existing.

"This proposal gives us the opportunity to enhance both the leisure and tourist facilities within the borough and the proposals bring significant economic benefits."

Construction is anticipated to start in 2017 immediately after planning permission is granted.

The first phase of development (the main entrance and access roads, theme park hub and core parking) will be open in 2020.

Gulliver's Valley website

Images: Gulliver's


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