Monday, July 13, 2020

News: The Pit House West saga


It was September 2015 when Rothbiz revealed first that the theme park operator, Gulliver's, was in discussions to locate a new family entertainment resort on the Pit House West site in Rotherham.

Five years on and during an unprecedented global pandemic, the family firm has opened the doors to Gulliver's Valley, putting an end to the "I believe it when I see it" comments over the land adjacent to Rother Valley Country Park.

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.

This is the third time it has chosen a developer for the site of the former Brookhouse Colliery.

Outline planning approval was granted for the £350m YES! Project in 2007 and updated plans were approved as late as in September 2010. Oak Holdings, selected by the council as its preferred developer in 2003, saw its developer agreement terminated by the authority in 2011 after the developer "made a material lack of progress" on what was to be the largest undercover leisure based scheme in Europe.

The YES! Project was due to comprise a 1.2m sq ft covered, fully integrated, mixed-use, leisure and entertainment based resort, activity and conference destination.

Extreme sports specialist Venture Xtreme and golf driving range company Baydrive were the first tenants to sign up and in 2008 and Oak secured a deal with the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team to develop a new state-of-the-art purpose-built arena on the site.

The plans included an indoor climbing facility, ice climbing, snow room, diving centre, access mall and changing rooms plus a hydrodome complex, indoor surf centre, rope park pavilion, indoor sky diving, a Top Chip hall and a Via Ferratta (an adventure climbing system).

Further "experience" operations were also mentioned including a brewery experience, a food experience and academy and a chocolate experience.


After Oak got the chop, The £118m Visions of China proposal came out of left field but it didn't even reach the planning application stage before it was shelved in 2014.

In 2011 Rotherham Council confirmed leisure organisation China Vision Ltd and regeneration specialist MCD Developments as the new preferred developers for the former Pit House West colliery site.

Visions of China was set to be a 120 acre cultural theme park set in an authentically built and landscaped Chinese environment combining a range of experiences and activities for visitors.

It was set to include oriental lakes and gardens, China Town retail street, a Shaolin temple and cultural centre, a theatre, children's fantasy land, restaurants, an oriental spa, pavilions, a pagoda and a hotel.

In 2014, the authority decided to enter into discussions with 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."
Cllr Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: “The site at Pit House West for too long stood vacant, so it is brilliant to see the fabulous Gulliver's Valley project realised in bricks and mortar, jobs and opportunities. It is an exciting development which will attract many thousands of visitors to our borough and is an exemplar of the kind of business that we would want our area to be known for."

Accounts show that Rotherham Council received £449,000 during 2017/18 as a capital receipt for the Pit House West site.

The opencast coal mine was worked until 1995 and the Coal Authority, who sold the land to the Council for £195,000 in 2001, agreed to alter "clawback payments" and remove 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.

Having previously come forward for discussions with the Council in 2014, Gulliver's went on to purchase approximately 250 acres of the 330 acres available and has already had outline plans approved for further phases - more themed areas, hotels and accommodation, a woodland adventure centre and an ecology and education centre.

Images: Google Maps / Gulliver's


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