Merlin says London Resort plans should be withdrawn

The company behind Thorpe Park and Alton Towers has written to the Planning Inspectorate arguing than the £5bn plans for the London Resort should be withdrawn on legal grounds.

Leisure giants Merlin Entertainment have said they are taking legal advice over the plans, and have said they the London Resort Company Holdings plan should be withdrawn and the entire application resubmitted.

This follows the London Resort being given an abnormal four-month delay to amend plans ahead of a Government review, and is expected to make various changes to its plans.

The extension was granted to allow the theme park developers to react to the news that the Swanscombe Marshes, where the two-twinned 535-acre resort will be built, has been granted protected status as a wildlife haven.

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Environmentalists have been campaigning against the plans for years, and now due to the “rich diversity of wildlife,” including the presence of a critically endangered species of jumping spider, the site was declared a SSSI by Natural England.

In response, the CEO of the London Resort Holdings Ltd, PY Gerbeau, tweeted out revealing they were asking for a delay as he also revealed the resort’s dinosaur-themed land, Base Camp.

This delay was granted by the Planning Inspectorate to ensure a “fair process,” but now the chief corporate officer of Merlin, Matt Jowett, has written to the Planning Inspectorate saying the London Resort should withdraw its plans entirely.

In a letter dated May 28, 2021, Jowett said that following legal advice, Merlin Entertainments believes that the London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH) plans should be withdrawn and the entire application resubmitted because of new information which will be included.

he claims that LRCH are using the opportunity to change aspects of its application unrelated to the SSSI status granted to the marshes, and therefore the resubmitted plans “were not properly consulted upon.”

In the letter, Jowett continued: “We have taken legal advice and it is clear from representations received from a number of interested parties in the intervening period that full details of matters envisaged by the applicant’s 12 May letter were not consulted upon at the statutory consultation stage so that proper consultation was not carried out prior to submission of the application.

“Furthermore, since the information now proposed to be submitted was not published alongside the application, by extension the pre-examination stage notification and invitation for relevant representations likewise has not been properly carried out.

“It should not be assumed that a person who had not already made a relevant representation would still not wish to do so. The information now proposed may well have resulted in different responses from the public or other stakeholders.”

He added: “They include a document described as ‘Supporting Resort and Leisure Market Assessment’, which plainly has no direct relevance to the SSSI status.

“There are multiple changes to application plans and other application documents. The submissions by LRCH make no reference to consultation with the public and no reference to consultation with interested parties such as ourselves.”

The bid is currently at the pre-examination phase, meaning detailed comments can be made by interested parties.

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