Plans to build a huge theme park on the Thames estuary have passed their first hurdle. The Planning Inspectorate has accepted the application for a Development Consent Order to build the London Resort theme park between Greenhithe and Northfleet. This means the project, submitted by London Resort Company Holdings on New Year’s Eve and received by the Planning Inspectorate on Monday, January 4, can proceed to examination. The decision to accept the 25,000-page application was announced in a Planning Inspectorate letter dated Thursday, January 28. The project, targeted for the wildlife-rich Swanscombe peninsula, has been roundly condemned by conservation groups including the RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife. There is also widespread concern about the scheme being designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. It is feared such status means it will not be subject to the same scrutiny that would be applied through the regular planning process. The examination, in which CPRE Kent intends to take part, is expected to begin two to four months from now and must be completed within six months of the start-point. Although it is too early to comment extensively, it is apparent that plenty of work needs to be done in relation to transport. The Lower Thames Crossing proposed for nearby does not appear to have been factored into the plans, while the developer will need to show how it can take people to and from the site on the existing transport network. Once the six-month examination has been completed, the final decision on the project will be made by Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The developer behind plans to build the country’s largest theme park in north Kent has applied to the government for consent to proceed. London Resort Company Holdings submitted its application for a Development Consent Order to the Planning Inspectorate on New Year’s Eve (Thursday, January 31, 2020). The scheme has been designated a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), the first ‘business or commercial project’ to be accepted as such by the government under the Planning Act 2008. The theme park is targeted for the Swanscombe peninsula, between Greenhithe and Northfleet, with opening anticipated for 2024 after a 2022 start date. It would cover more than 1,160 acres and LRCH says it would create “48,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs” by 2038. The project website states: “Sustainability is at the core of our vision. We are exploring new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the London Resort. Our aim is to create one of the most sustainable theme park destinations in the world.” It adds: “Our designs will integrate local public rights of way and a green network, with improved access to the river for visitors and local communities. The London Resort will showcase the natural features of the site, seamlessly integrating them into our designs. A large proportion of the peninsula landscape will remain undeveloped and will be enhanced.” However, there are widespread concerns both for people employed on the peninsula who might see their workplaces lost and for the area’s wildlife. Buglife has joined with other environmental campaigners to set up the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign. To understand why the peninsula is so special, we will indeed turn to Buglife, which states: “The Swanscombe peninsula in north Kent is home to a remarkable mosaic of grasslands, coastal habitats, brownfield features, scrub and intricate wetlands. However, the proposed London Resort theme park threatens the future of this urban wilderness. “Known as Swanscombe Marshes, this urban wilderness is home to thousands of invertebrate species, including over 250 species of conservation concern. This outstanding assemblage is of national importance, ranking with our best invertebrate brownfield sites. “It is one of just two places in the UK for the Critically Endangered distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus), among the host of rare bees, beetles, moths and other invertebrates recorded there… the mixture of natural coastal features and human interference has created a brownfield of the highest quality for wildlife, as well as a valued community space for walking, birdwatching, angling and escaping the hustle and bustle of north Kent.” CPRE Kent intends to take part in the examination should it happen. It is too early to comment extensively, but an initial observation relates to the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, which does not appear to have been factored into plans – how would the two dovetail? The Planning Inspectorate now has until Thursday, January 28, to determine if the application is satisfactory and the project can proceed to examination. Should it get that far, the Secretary of State would then decide whether London Resort should be built.
CPRE Kent has welcomed the creation of the new Urban Development Corporation for Ebbsfleet Garden City – but stresses the importance of sustainability and environmental protection in the decision-making process.
We agree with the UDC having powers to decide on planning applications, but local communities and elected parish, district and county councils must be represented.
CPRE Kent Director Dr Hilary Newport said: “The UDC must stick to existing agreements regarding infrastructure including schools, surgeries, hospital capacity and public transport. Also essential are excellent building design standards including visual appearance and energy efficiency, together with exemplary green space and community facilities. Getting all the key elements of delivery, design and community involvement right at Ebbsfleet will be a very important model for other garden cities across the UK.”
The comments were made as part of the consultation into the UDC which ended on Monday (October 6th).
We agree in principle with the boundaries of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC). However, the EDC includes a small area of the Metropolitan Green Belt, as well as land within the administrative boundaries of both Dartford and Gravesham Borough Councils and the proposed site of the London Paramount project. This will make it essential to work with all councils and communities in the area impacted by the development. The boundaries must also safeguard from housing development Robins Creek and Red Lions Wharf, as these minerals wharves are vital to provide for the bulk transport of minerals, thus avoiding additional congestion and air pollution if this transportation was switched to road.