Following its submission at the end of 2020, the Development Consent Order (DCO) for The London Resort has now been accepted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate, with its 25,000 pages of reports, assessments and analysis providing a new insight into the project.
Having originally been announced in October 2012, the process of reaching this significant milestone has been a long and winding one, although the pace of progress has increased during the last year and a half since PY Gerbeau joined the project team. In response to the application’s acceptance, PY Gerbeau, CEO of London Resort Company Holdings said:
“It’s taken an enormous effort from everyone involved to get to where we are today. I want to thank the home team, our investor, our partners and people who supported us for their dedication and incredible commitment.
“We have always said our ambition is to build much more than just a theme park. It will be a beacon of world class entertainment and experiences within a world-leading sustainable environment. We still have a long way to go and we are very much looking forward to working with the Planning Inspectorate over the coming months. But, from where we were, less than eighteen months ago, today is a game changer and a very special day to celebrate.”
The London Resort is designed to cater for up to 6.5 million visitors per year with only Gate 1 (the first theme park and main resort complex) open, and then up to 12.5 million visitors per year once Gates 2 (principally the second theme park) is in operation, with up to 35% of visitors projected to come from overseas. Although the theme parks will be the main attraction for visitors, the Resort also consists of a number of other elements which are all detailed in the application.
Theme Park Gates 1 & 2
Gates 1 and 2 will each incorporate theme park rides and attractions, events spaces, dining options and entertainment venues, which will provide visitors with a wide range of memorable experiences. The theme parks will be opened in two phases, comprising a 57-hectare area known as Gate 1 opening in 2024, and a 22.5-hectare area known as Gate 2 opening in 2029, with each phase subdivided into themed zones.
These areas will reflect agreements with intellectual property (IP) providers, and will include rides, shows and attractions suitable for families, children, and the more adventurous thrill-seeking visitor. These will include film, television and computer gaming brands as well as attractions bespoke to The London Resort. The DCO application states that the content of the zones will be changed or updated from time to time in line with evolving market demand, and the planning type applied for incorporates the flexibility to enable this.
Retail and amenity facilities, including a range of restaurants, cafes and outlets linked to the Resort experience, will be integrated into both Gates. A combination of theatres and indoor and outdoor venues within the theme parks will provide West End quality productions and shorter-format shows, showcasing content from the IP providers, as well as provide a stage for live comedy acts and concerts.
The Gates will also incorporate water features, designed as natural systems to work in harmony with a sustainable drainage strategy, to connect through the circulation spaces and form focal points between the different themed areas. These features will provide opportunity for visitor interaction with water as well as habitat ‘stepping-stones’.
Each Gate will have an external entrance plaza with space for people to gather outside the entrances, and to provide space for guest services and ancillary commercial use. Each Gate would also include a ‘City Hall’ building that will include administrative offices, security and first aid and information services for visitors.
The DCO application seeks consent for development parameters, or the ‘Rochdale Envelope’ approach, where the nature of the proposed development means that some details of the whole project have not been confirmed, for instance the precise dimensions of rides and attractions, with detailed design being subject to approval by the relevant planning authorities. The proposed maximum height parameters for buildings and structures inside Gate 1 range from 40-100m (131-328ft) AOD and between 35-65m (115-213ft) AOD in Gate 2. These upper limits are said to enable the construction of tall rides and centrepiece features such as the castle which has been detailed in the plans, as well as in concept visuals previously released. At least 60% of the attractions in the two theme parks will be located inside buildings with the aim of providing a compelling entertainment experience regardless of the weather.