Former U.K. Paramount Theme Park Hits Another Stumbling Block as Planning Application Suddenly Withdrawn

© The London Resort

The London Resort, a theme park billed as the U.K.’s answer to Disneyland, has suffered yet another setback after suddenly withdrawing its planning application.

On Tuesday, PY Gerbeau, chief executive of London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), the developers behind The London Resort, confirmed that the company was withdrawing its current application.

Gerbeau blamed the decision on the reclassification of a local boat dock as a ‘freeport’ (which isn’t subject to normal taxes and customs regulations), which would have an impact on the ferry terminal envisaged as part of the site’s redevelopment.

He also said an area of the proposed theme park site had been designated a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ by environmental body Natural England, meaning the land has some significant flora, fauna, physiological or geological features that can’t be disturbed, which had also impacted the plans.

“These changes are considered material and as such require withdrawal and resubmission [of the planning application],” Gerbeau said in a statement. “We have repeatedly petitioned for latitude, extensions of time and of course understanding from the Examining Authority and the Planning Inspectorate. Their teams have been extremely supportive, but we recognize that the best route for the project is through withdrawal and resubmission of a fresh DCO [Development Consent Order] application within this calendar year.”

The withdrawal of the planning application is the latest blow for the 900-acre resort, which was originally set to open as a Paramount Pictures theme park in 2018.

Initially envisaged as a partnership between LRCH and Paramount, the theme park — located on a site in north Kent, just outside London — was first announced in 2012 with the promise of more than 50 rides and attractions based on the studio’s globally recognized films and TV shows as well as the U.K.’s largest indoor waterpark, theaters, live music venues, cinemas, restaurants, event spaces and 5,000 hotel rooms.

However, the deal collapsed in 2017 after the two companies mutually agreed to end their pact. In 2019, LRCH revealed the partnership had been “reignited” via a new licensing deal, which would see the studio license LRCH intellectual property from films including “The Godfather,” “The Italian Job,” the Mission: Impossible franchise and “A Quiet Place” to be turned into theme park rides.

LRCH also inked deals with ITV Studios and BBC to license their family and children’s content for the park and in 2021 unveiled their plans for a dinosaur-inspired land, which included two rollercoasters, a 1,500 seat indoor arena, a 4D underwater-themed ride and two restaurants, one being a ‘fine dining’ experience.

Last month, however, it was revealed both ITV Studios and BBC had also withdrawn from the project. “ITV’s arrangement with The London Resort was that we were a potential licensor of one of our children’s brands, which was ‘Thunderbirds,’ a spokesperson for ITV Studios said at the time. “We can confirm that ITV no longer has a commercial arrangement with London Resorts as the agreement has now ended. This means that ‘Thunderbirds’ will not be a part of the park.”

Meanwhile, the opening date has been repeatedly pushed back, first to 2022 and then to 2024. However, without even a planning application in place now, even the latter timeframe is looking increasingly unlikely.

“We will continue our engagement with the local community, statutory bodies, landowners and others to make sure we can reach as many agreements as possible before resubmission,” Gerbeau said. “Make no mistake we are still 100% committed to this amazing project and we will resubmit before the end of 2022 and look forward to delivering a world class entertainment resort — the U.K. deserves better and we will make it happen!”