Disney on Thames: A fairy tale for the UK or a public expenditure villain

Last week there was a huge buzz surrounding Paramount’s confirmation of their 872-acre, £3.5billion bombshell landing in the UK. In an ambitious project to rival Disneyland, Paramount are opening their own theme park in Kent. And with paranormal activity, star trek, Madagascar and even titanic on their books, the buzz is swelling and the expectations are sky high.

The park is set to bring all the glamour and finesse of Hollywood mixed with of the best of British culture, fish and chips on a red carpet. I’m there. Paramount have revealed there will be 50 attractions, a 2000 seat theatre, 5000 hotel rooms, catering for over 11,000 people, and the park will include Europe’s biggest indoor waterpark. Speculation suggests zone names will be: Isle of Adventure, Entertainment City and Paramount Port, it’s no “Magic Kingdom” or “Downtown Disney”, but it’s rather British and people love it.

Tourism experts have predicted the new development will bring 44,000 visitors a day, meaning that within just a few months the park will have attracted more visits than the entire 2012 Olympic games. And, of course, the revenue will be phenomenal, Paramount are setting the entry price at £57 and that’s not including the standard over-priced refreshments and the small mortgage you need to take out to get a print out of a photo with your favourite character. However, although its double the price of Thorpe Park, they have matched the price of the Disneyland parks and we cannot complain.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the project hasn’t got planning permission yet and with Paramount still looking for contractors to carry out this pipeline project, it won’t be finished till 2022 (if it is approved). A two year push back from the first plans that were discussed back in 2015.

Additionally, this new development is tackling a very British debate, traffic, how are all those visitors going to get to the park? Those involved with the development are simply hoping that most people will use public transport but there is plans to develop new access routes that will separate resort traffic and local traffic. Stakeholders in the development offered mixed responses. Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Kent County Council was unfazed by the issues and explained that as well as the proposed access routes, the HS1 will be supporting extra visitors with extra trains. Michael Foley, 73, a retired construction worker from Ingress Park, said: “Road systems in the area need improving before we get started on this” and Andy Martin, part of the London Paramount development team, offered: “As long as we get the infrastructure right, I think people will be excited about this.” Infrastructural improvements which will take time, energy and fundamentally, public money.

Environmentalists are not just concerned about the extra cars that will be on the road but also about the environmental impact of running a park of such grandeur. But paramount responded to these concerns and on their website state that the project will be regenerating mainly brownfield land and will create new attractive walk, cycle and bus routes to surround the site. Moreover, there will be a push to enhance the wildlife habitat beside the River Thames.

On the bright side, the creation of jobs is something that is without criticism, the group involved in this humongous project have revealed the resort could bring 33,000 jobs to the area including up to 10,000 full-time resort jobs. Residents of the local area were in favour of the jobs the resort would bring to the area but only if they were available to local people. London Resort Company Holdings confirmed this and said it would be working with local secondary schools, colleges and higher education to help build skills and offers the courses necessary to increase chances of employability at the park and confirmed that 50% of jobs would be available to the immediate surrounding area.

So, what’s next? As the plans are finalised for submission, a final statutory public consultation will be held later in the year, where anyone can drop in and ask questions, details of which will be released at londonparamount.info. What’s your take on the new development? A long-awaited fairy tale for the UK or a public expenditure villain.

By Justine Mullan-Redwood

Photo from: (Evening Standard)


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